This blog is for anyone who could use a little shift in perspective. Teaching yoga and dance has been a great healer in my life, but like we all know, there is always more to learn, more to accept and love, and there is always more work to be done. Please reach out to me with your feedback, questions, and ideas. I would love to hear from you!
My heart goes out to you if you are in pain. I shed my fair share of tears yesterday and I am sure there are more to come.
My prayer is that all of the people who are suffering experience some ease in their pain. I am not referring to just the victims of violence, but to all people who are suffering. I am praying for everyone, including the people who are doing acts of violence because in order for our society to move in a positive direction, these people need forgiveness and they need recognition of their own pain. We cannot banish them to Mars, hurt them, or lock them all up, so there needs to be another way.
The ones who are acting through violence and hate only see the world through eyes of fear. They are living trapped in a their own delusions, believing that the world is against them and perceiving their security and freedom as being threatened (because it is). The violence and fighting is a reaction to a growing society of love, acceptance, and unification and these things do not go well with hate and fear. This is a matter of living in pain as a lifestyle and culture. I do not believe these are bad people. I believe these are people trapped in delusion and suffering. They are stuck in a mindfuck of extremely old ways of being. They are living in full fear. They are living in survival mode, protecting what they think they must. This is a matter of an inability to see the world through eyes of peace and love and compassion.
Yes, this fucking sucks. It sucks that there are still people who want to hurt other people. It sucks that there are people who do not believe in equality. It sucks that the world can be such a dark and violent place. It’s sick and painful and gut wrenching to think that in 2017, people are still losing their lives over human equality. That is what is happening. What happened in Charlottesville is a result of a culture of people who are currently existing only in survival mode, the world around them is a constant threat to the destruction of their belief system and they are “fighting back” to protect the downfall of what is to eventually come. I am in no way saying this is fine and well. What I am saying is to step back and see that hating and “othering” bring us full circle into hate. Combatting anger and violence with more anger and violence will get us nowhere and will bring us more pain.
We are being called to rise as one people, to think, and to act with love and compassion. I am not saying don’t be angry. BE ANGRY. But also, step back and understand that all human thought and action at its deepest root comes from either love or fear. WE are capable of rising into love and “fighting back” with even more love, compassion, and prayer. You cannot take down a society of people who are unified. We are being called to continue to unify. The world is changing very quickly and some people cannot keep up. They are revolting and they will not succeed. We are becoming more unified with every act of hate. Hate is a toxin and it’s coming up to be cleansed away. We are growing stronger everyday. This is a prayer for everyone who is suffering. May you be able to someday love.
So, I’ve really been wanting to take my clothes off lately. In my house, in my backyard, in other people's backyards, at the beach, and during yoga, to name a few. “She is cray”, you might be saying to yourself or to your BFF, or to your dog, and though you may be totally correct in assuming so, that doesn’t make me want to take my clothes off any less. Hear me out.
Since I can remember, I have hidden my body. Really. I keep what’s hidden under clothes locked away tightly for not a soul to see. In fact, I am such a mcguyver of skin coverage, that it wasn’t until last year that ANYONE (including my ex-boyfriend and roommate of 5 years) saw me naked. You heard that right, my boyfriend of 5 years was not allotted the pleasure and love of experiencing his girlfriend in her full frontal truth. Like I said, Cover-That-Shit-Up-Master in the house.
I have been hiding my parts since I first sprouted parts! I have been keeping my secrets secret since Middle school! I was determined to hide them FOREVER honestly. I was so adamant about "clothing on" that I even chose my relationships through this route. Who will accept that I will never take my clothes off? He must be “safe” and “accept my flaws." But peeps, the safe guy is not the guy you want. You want the (guy) (human) (lady) Being who makes your whole body tingle when you look at them, who helps you evolve, who makes you feel giddy, and who introduces you to loving you at the level you deserve to be loved...which is unconditionally of course. If I could not love myself unconditionally, then there is no way I would consciously choose another human to.
I had never loved my body and therefore had always made the assumption that neither would anyone else. As any right minded person would gather, this is not a logical conclusion. I also hate pasta, but trust me, I do not think you hate pasta. Everyone loves pasta! See what I’m saying?
What I have come to understand, is that when we focus negativity toward something, it grows into more negativity, more pain, more anger, it gets created into something far worse than it ever was to begin with. This is how our brains naturally function. I began to hide my stomach in elementary school when I first started to be harassed for my weight. I noticed then that my stomach protruded forward and looked more like a pregnant belly than the belly of any of the other girls at school. My belly looked even less like the bellies in magazines, on TV, in music videos, or on the half-shirted teenage bared bellies that were so in style in 1995 at the Square One Mall. I did not have the right belly!
What is a right belly anyway? Here, I googled it for you...
“The abdomen contains all the digestive organs, including the stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. These organs are held together loosely by connecting tissues (mesentery) that allow them to expand and to slide against each other. The abdomen also contains the kidneys and spleen.” www.webmd.com
So, if your belly has at least some of these organs and is held together by that gross word, I think you’re doing pretty damn well right now.
In all my misguided childhood glory, I started to cover my belly up. I would put something large like a sweater in my lap every time I sat down to hide away my rolls that seemed to stick out through my shirt. I would obsess over it when I was alone. I would pray for liposuction. My belly became my enemy. It became a source of hate and pain. But, the problem was not really my belly. I was my brain. Nothing was wrong with my body. I did not have any illnesses, diseases, or real pain that would have really been worthy of my attention. As time went on, I continued to obsess over my body and all it brought me was more obsession of my body. The more I focused on dislike for what I had, and wished to be thin, the more I would emotionally eat and delve deeper into depression, and the more I ate, the worse I would feel. This was a never ending cycle of pain and shame all because I was obsessing over myself. Where your focus goes, your energy grows. Through all the forms that my eating disorder took, whether I was starving and a tiny xxxs size 0 or overeating and bigger, the experience in my brain was actually the same. I was thinking, no, obsessing, about MY body. What. A Waste. Of. A. Good. Body.
Let’s be real here, our bodies serve a massive purpose and it ain’t to just be lookin’ cute. Our bodies allow us to enjoy life, create, and manifest the things that we need to do while we are on this earth.
What could you do if you did not have a body at all?
As a society we owe it to ourselves and to each other rise up. We need to start committing to more meaningful and more pleasurable experiences. We are wasting our time being stuck in our heads.
I NEVER thought I would want to be naked so much, but it IS happening and it is so freaking exciting. Feeling excitement to do something outside of my comfort zone is a mystical magical feeling that tops feeling shameful by about a gazillion. I am feeling grateful and lucky to have this body for only a short period of time, so I am going to embrace it and enjoy it while I am here. Someday, some lucky human is going to get to experience all of me and I will joyfully (with some big nerves) get to experience the pleasure that comes with being loved as I am and simply experiencing life as is it meant to be. Here’s to living it up and gettin’ nakey.
3 Tips on How To Get Out the Body Shame Cycle & Have The Best Day Ever
10 feminist & body positive podcasts- BUSTLE
Body Love Podcast Jessi Haggagerty (I was on this episode!)
feel good in your body
The Power of Mindfulness
Insta peeps to follow....
“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits—anything that kept me small. My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving,” ~Kim McMillen
Here’s to filling ourselves up with the good stuff.
A couple of days ago I got some really bad news. Some painful, cringe-worthy, gut wrenching, truly terrible news. I thought I was going to lose someone I loved. I went into a tailspin of emotion. I literally collapsed on my bathroom floor wailing. I remembered this feeling. I’ve been on the bathroom floor before. Wailing. Crying out in pain. Asking God why. I have to write about it because it’s real and I am not afraid to go there, into the darkness of the cycle of life that we ALL share and accept it because I know that’s how healing happens.
Why am I even sharing my secrets right now? Because. Growth, people! Growth :)
After emptying the contents of my tear ducts for about 24 hours, I came to a few realizations. First of all, this feeling I remembered, it was the exact feeling I had when my dad passed two years ago (He would have turned 71 this week). When he passed, I spent a lot of time on the floor of the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, really all the rooms. I would just collapse and go into a crying fit. On the day of his funeral, I got so emotionally spun out, that I drank myself into a blackout and spent the night clutching the toilet (tmi, but someone out there can relate!) and woke up the next day, you guessed it, on the bathroom floor crying!
Back to this time.
What I realized this time is how easy it is to be in the flow and happy and joyful when everything in your life is lining up and no one is ill, or dead, or broken-up with, or cheated on, or in jail, or whatever horrible thing is happening right now and seemed to just come right the fuck out of NOWHERE...you get the picture.
I had forgotten just how damn lucky I have it right now (so many of us have it like this right now) and that all the spiritual work and all the growth i’m leaning into, the asking for guidance, the following my heart, the feeling gratitude for the people in my life, the healing, nurturing, and the blessings I have, this is all preparation for the real shit that is bound to happen. Life is not all daisies and sweet baby toes, and butterfly kisses, and unicorn glitter magic (well...it kind of is) and we know that, but knowing that is a reminder of how damn lucky we are to be alive right now. SO LUCKY!
This time, I am reminded of the people who are going through something inconceivable to most right now. The people who are really going through tough times. My heart is right there with you. I know this pain. It is like being ripped wide open on display for the world to see. The people going through struggle right now have become my role models. If it is you, and you are reading this, thank you for being a guide and a legit inspiration for all of us. Know that I am in the background cheering you on and praying for ease in your grieving. You are angels.
There is a great quote in a recent blog post from one of my favorite people, Sarah Wolf, that really hits deep for me. It goes like this,
"You have been assigned this mountain so others know it can be moved."
Right? So. Good.
For me, this grieving brings up some old stuff. Some of my own mountains, struggles, and ways of being that don’t serve my own healing. The crying is not what I’m talking about. Holy healthy! If you need to cry, please, please, please, get that shit out! It needs to go somewhere. What I’m referring to is my old gang of unhelpful brain friends, my Eating Disorder thoughts! Yup. When I am in pain, the thing my brain resorts to is “protecting me” the exact same ways it did when I was a child. When I say “protecting me,” what I really mean is helping me cope with (or suppress) pain I’m in. That protection seems really nice, but it’s actually quite detrimental to my well being. This week I started to subconsciously spend a few more seconds looking in the mirror, sending myself negative thoughts, questioning if I was eating too much, plotting my next meal (not in an excited to eat kind of way- in a -maybe I can cut out everything but the protein kind of way- maybe I don’t need dinner tonight- kind of way-maybe I can just fast tomorrow- kind of way). Not healthy, babe.
Then something miraculous happened. Something just clicked. I finally got it! Oh my goodness! That was not a healthy thought. Then. That was not a healthy thought! Then, woah, that thought doesn’t sound like it would come from someone whose purpose on earth is to embody self-love and inspire others to do the same! It was SO exciting to be on the other side, watching the old patterns arise and being beyond that place of feeling trapped and needing to feel in control when life feels out of control. To those of you in any sort of recovery, I know you know what I’m talking about and HANG IN THERE, boos. You are doing great! Little by little. Day by day. Being compassionate to whatever arises.
I learned this week how much I have grown and for that, I am on cloud nine and feeling blessed AF because it means we ALL have the capacity to get past our unloving habits and move into a place of compassion no matter what we face.
This week I re-learned how quickly our lives can get “out of control” and how quickly we will need to honor and embrace all the feels that arrive. I am re-committing to being in a place of heart centered action and thought right now. I am counting my blessings and soaking in every moment. I am reminded that I won’t have everyone in my life forever, and I am doing my best to just be in the moment with the ones I have now. I am nurturing and nurturing and nurturing some more and choosing life and growth in this moment and hoping you, whoever you are, are doing the same. Thank you. I love you. I really, really, really do.
4 STEPS TO SELF-LOVE Hangovers,Body Shaming, & Binge Eating: Feeling your feelings and The Nitty Gritty of Heart Centered Choices
“You cannot get to happy over there if you’re unhappy over here. Unhappy over here will have your attention. Unhappy has a vibration and if you are offering an unhappy vibration, you will bring in an unhappy vibration." -Esther Hicks.
A Really a big shift is happening inside me. I think I am starting to really let go. I think I am starting to really trust. I feel a flow through me. A beautiful river of loving, heart centered choices. If you take my yoga classes you have most likely heard my new favorite phrase a few.... million times.
Heart. Centered. Choices.
This has become everything to me and I am leading my days with buckets of heart centered choices right now. Let me explain...
Friday night I went out with a new friend. We went to the Beehive (I love this place especially because it reminds me of my rad artist mom) Anyway, Friday night I went to the Beehive and had one too many drinks. I literally mean ONE too many. I had two. TWO. Total. Drinks.
For most people that is nothing. For most people! But the next morning I woke up and it felt like all the skin wrapped around my skull was crawling and squeezing my brain. I mean, even my eyelids hurt. It has been many years since I’d been hungover and I do not wish to go back to the old days of blacking out or vomiting an entire bottle of red wine (tmi?) ever again!
But. Wait. Where is this story going, girl?
I sufffffered through yesterday (including a hard core high intensity Sassy Saturday class) with as much energy, patience, and compassion as I could muster. I was a wreck inside the whole day. My head was POUNDING and I was in a constant state of nausea. Trying to console myself meant a continuous internal dialog, “This will pass and I will be okay soon.” “It’s all good, babe,” I said...to myself.
But the absolute MOST essential thing I did was to ask myself this.
“What is the most loving thing I can do in this moment?” That is what I mean by making heart centered choices.
What is the most loving thing I can do in this moment?”
Unlike my non-loving days of the past, the day after the hangover was a whole new and fabulous discovery of what life without the constant barrage of negativity and shame is like...
I am finally in a place in my life where I am connected to my body and spirit in such a way that I can nurture myself out of feeling terrible. That is not to say I can stop the hangover or even stop bad thoughts from surfacing randomly into my brain, but what I can do is have the awareness that what pain I am currently experiencing needs to be met with loving thoughts, choices, and buckets of compassion. Here is what I haven’t said yet that is going to make all the difference.
In the past, when faced with feelings of pain, hurt, discomfort, or dis-ease in any way, I almost always numbed myself away from the feelings I was experiencing. This took many shapes and forms but the most obvious are the disordered eating behaviors of starving and binging, followed by diving head first into self-deprecating thoughts or behaviors that would send me into a downward spiral of depression, or, if I want to go way way back, latching onto someone else (like a boyfriend!) to “fix me”.
In the past, it didn’t take much emotional imbalance to bring me into a mental state of choosing to binge. It just seemed to happen. At one point, I didn’t seem to have any emotional awareness at all! I couldn’t feel the difference between pain or discomfort, avoiding responsibility, or even just being tired! Can you imagine how exhausting that would be? To never know what you are feeling exactly? To be constantly ruled and lead by emotions you don’t even understand?! Oh my gahdddddd. One moment I would be doing something and the next I would find myself in my kitchen, hunched over an open carton of something or other, just going at it! I mean really. Me. Ice Cream. Like a gallon...not a pint. And that would just continue to whatever I could find and get my hands on. I could eat a couple of days worth of food easily in one sitting and then go back a few hours later and find myself in that same state of eating, totally disconnected from what I was even doing. Mental illness is a bitch.
Back to being hungover.
I have been hungover before. This ain’t my first rodeo. But this time was totally different. I kept asking myself, the universe, my heart, “what can I do that will be a loving choice right now?” And I got answers! Drink water, take vitamins, this will pass, have something nutritious, rest, don’t put too much pressure on yourself today, be real about this situation, no need to feel shame, go outside, it’s all good, this will pass, be okay with suffering a little, you got this, this will pass, just keep showing up as you are right now! I just kept following my own loving voice inside all day and it was a fucking beautiful experience! I was able to spend time with friends, draw, watch the sunset, listen to music, and all of this without resorting to OLD, anxiety ridden, worn out, habitually stunted and unloving patterns that once ran the show.
Let me tell you how Shira just last year would have handled this situation.
Woken up hungover with total and utter dread for the day ahead. Felt such pressure to perform during class and such shame for being hungover (two drinks, people) that she would over perform, over push, totally exhaust herself during class to the point of being in physical pain. She would then go home, binge eat, and lay in bed to watch HOURS (let’s say about ten) of Netflex. She would mentally shame herself alllll day for every action she chose. She would be the meanest, most horrible bully to her body after binging, probably spend too much time looking at her stomach in the mirror and replaying the idea of being a disgusting human over and over, she would completely NUMB out. Whatever the pain was- she was going to eat so much that should couldn’t even feel the initial emotions, which would in turn, send her into a deep depression for the rest of the day. She would not leave her house again until the next day, when she could forget (tell NO ONE and pretend) that any of that ever happened and then continue to punish herself through hours of intense exercise. No more!…What I want to express here is that there is another way and I, Shira Brenner, am living proof!!!
4 STEPS TO SELF LOVE
Try looking in the mirror and saying, “I am so pure in the deepest part of who I am. I am beauty. I am life. I am so appreciative to have this body!” ...It doesn’t have to be exactly those words, but this is Law of Attraction so bring in ways that you want to feel that are specific to you.
No need to rush this process. This is all about patience and trust. Patience and trust. These things take time. You do not get to decide how long it will take you to grow into your loving ways of being, you just have to practice over and over and over and over. You will always have to realign with your loving choices. It is a way of being and riding the waves of life...and you are going to love it.
I recognize that this post has gotten a little lengthy and wild, but hopefully you are picking up what I’m throwing down. The point is, being a human and having challenges, obstacles, weird thoughts, and hangovers is hard, but it is only as hard and as horrible as we choose it to be. Deciding to make a shift and feel your feelings instead of numbing certainly does take some courage, but I know it’s in you, it’s in ALL of us, but we have to say YES to it and be open to what is on the other side. Take a deep breath into your heart, give yourself some extra love’n, and know that everything will work out in time.
I recently did a podcast with my good friend, RD and Intuitive Eating Coach, Jessi Haggarty. In this episode we discuss...
This is a reminder to myself that the voice in my head, telling me that i’m looking a little “big,” or that my clothes don’t look right on my body, or that I need to “fix” any part of my body, is not me, but actually an imaginary, total bitch that I need to name and claim as such. Let’s call her Cruella McBwordAwordStupidDooDooFaceMagee. Excuse my French. CMA for short.
Sometimes (okay pretty much everyday) I wake up and the first thing I do, even before opening my eyes, is put my hands on my stomach to see if, overnight, it has gotten bigger or (fingers crossed) smaller! My day begins with the presumption that I have somehow gained weight overnight from eating too much or from, well, just being alive and if I have in fact, become larger during the past 8 hours, it will impact the rest of my life for-ever, I will die alone, unsuccessful, and everyone will judge me. Here are the following steps to unravel this not so loving mental conditioning I created as a 10 year old girl that I have compassionately cultivated and revised as a 31 year old WOMAN. Yes, I am a woman now. Hear me roar.
I get out of bed, take my clothes off, and inspect my body in the mirror from Every. Single. Angle. Upon inspection, I look myself right in the eyes and say with confidence and vigor, “You are a fucking brilliant force of love and a hot piece of ass! Your body is PERFECT and so are you!” Then I do this little butt shake and give myself a super sassy face. Sometimes I even forget that the blinds are open and the neighbors get a show!
Yeah, that’s right. I talk to myself outloud in the mirror and then I flirt...with myself. While naked. Blinds sometimes open.
The truth is, I work the shit out of positive affirmations, Reiki healing, and meditation. Why? Because these are the things that got me through/are getting me through eating disorder(s), organ failure, therapy, hospital visits, and depression, and these are the things that keep me present and loving my life no matter what arises. I am love and I will stop at nothing to spread the good word.
There was a long time ( not that long, just like, 20 years or so) in which I would do this “stomach check” as my meanie alter ego, Cruella. If my stomach didn’t feel small enough, or my face looked puffy, I would punish myself throughout the day in various ways. I would negative-self talk myself into a tunnel of thought patterning, until all that was cycling through my brain was criticism after criticism after criticism. This began upon awaking and did not end until i’d fallen asleep with (fingers crossed) an empty stomach and a smaller waist. In fact, my life was so heavily based upon this desire to be small, that I believe I subconsciously changed professions simply to be “thin” and “FIT.” Ca-ray-zee. Every second was about getting that unobtainable “hot” body, being desirable, being enough. And for what? My happiness DOES NOT depend on the size of my body (and psssht, neither should yours ). Oh, there’s more! I would also compare my body to all the bodies around me. If someone was smaller than me, I wouldn’t understand why I couldn’t look the same. Why me! Why do I have this body!? How is SHE eating that?! OMG!!!Why can’t I be skinny like everyone else!?...said Cruella McBword. Wah wah wah. NONSENSE.
You need to fight for yourself. You need to fight for your right to exist in peace. You. The real you, NOT your inner bully, YOU need to stand up to every single fucking negative comment that arises in your brain. Not just the body related ones, all of them! They are NOT REAL. These thoughts are lies we have created during our lifetimes ( or eh-hem, during childhood experiences that were not in our control) to keep us from reaching our incredible potential to experience true joy, presence, and connection to ourselves.
Let’s call these fear thoughts because that is all they do- keep you in fear and out of love. There is a magical world inside of you and you might not even realize it. You are so worthy of love, it is almost ridiculous. There is absolutely not one soul on this earth, in this galaxy, that is like you. You, the real you, has special powers and unique talents, and beauty that emanates if you allow it to. Say yes. You, the real you, is not even your body’s form, it is your presence with what is real and your ability to just show up to your life with compassion and love. I spent almost my entire life hating myself. What. A. Waste. Of. Time.
Enough is enough. It’s time for us to create a self love movement.
Let me tell you about what happens when you decide that those negative, self-defeating thoughts toward yourself (and others!) are just you own horrible version of your inner mean girl. When you label those thoughts, when you discover they aren’t your true source, you begin to create space in your brain for BETTER, SMARTER, MORE INTERESTING thoughts. You have heard of the old saying, “when you close one door, another opens,” well, that is not limited to breakups, actual doors, and jobs. We have a choice in how we perceive our lives, inside and outside of our brains and bodies. Choose to be compassionate to yourself and just wait and see how your world shifts. Once I shut that B word right the hell up (see how aggressive I have to be?!) I became more productive, more creative, and wayyyy more joyful. Though I will always have that old thought patterning trying to pull me back to nonsense, I will never give in to the lies because I am committed to living a freaking joyous life. That is my birthright.
I mean, if you don’t allow yourself to be joyful in your own existence, who will? I am calling for all of us to rise up, say NO MORE to our inner Cruella's and create a movement of celebrating ourselves and eachother in every way. Tell yourself you’re awesome. Tell other people (especially the ones that wake up your inner critic) that they are awesome! Step up and get on board this love train, full throttle into the magic of self-empowerment, so we can be a happier, more connected society. It is about time.
This is a reminder to myself that the voice in my head, telling me that i’m looking a little “big,” or that my clothes don’t look right on my body, or that I need to “fix” any part of my body is not me, but actually a made up, total B word that I need to name and claim as such. Let’s call her, Cruella McBwordAwordStupidDooDooFaceMagee.
Excuse my French. CMA for short.
I am choosing love and I am not backing down. JOIN ME.
I will never forget being the fattest kid in Jazz class. I wasn’t a huge kid. I was just, well, big enough. If you can remember the main character from the movie, Little Miss Sunshine, specifically when she stands in front of a full length mirror at the beauty pageant (vomit) with her cute tummy protruding out and her adorable puffy cheeks, the point in the movie where she realizes she is "different" from the others, just pack on about 25lbs and that was basically me. I didn’t have a grandpa coaching me
to strip , but I certainly had the same, if not more, chutzba, sass skills, and pelvic thrusting ability.
I begged my parents to let me join dance class and was elated when I finally got to rehearse for a dance to the Brady Bunch song, It's a Sunshine day. I swear to god I had been waiting my whole life to be a professional dancer (based on my music video research and my dream of being a back up dancer for In Living Color.) and I was finally getting my grand debut. When rehearsals began, I could not contain my excitement. I had A LOT of talent to share with the world. Talent that I believed could not be contained. My first rehearsal was amazing. leaps across the floor, shuffle, ball change. a spin, shuffle, ball change. Big smiles. jazz hands. Kicks.. Turns! Everything. Was. Amazing.
Early on I knew I was different from the others, not because I had this very original idea that I was physically different, but instead because I was told I was different. I was "othered"and it hurt. It really hurt. For some reason this time(there were many more!) really just sucked. The memory sticks to my gut like crazy glue.. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I remember being pointed at, laughed at, sneered upon, and mockingly giggled at behind cupped hands from the pack of terrifying hyenas some might refer to as children.
I still have the amazing photos of myself in a neon green dress and white go go boot covers from our photoshoot. I was definitly a rock star in every way. My bun was perfectly hair spray hardened and my blue eye shadow was on point, but I don’t even remember performance day. The day I had been waiting my entire life for is actually overshadowed by a gaggle of insecure haters laughing at me. And there it is. I stopped dancing for a decade. My creativity, my passion, my expression of zeal was completely squashed.
This all came to me while I was not more than 10 pages into, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert when I read the sentence, “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them", and my mouth dropped open. wow. Yes!
I learned early on that my body was not good enough and for too long, my fear of rejection, my limitation (which obviously was not a real limitation) ruled my life. “I am too fat” kept me from experiencing a hell of a lot of joy and fulfillment. Honestly, I am still trying to heal. Layer by layer peeling away the things that have kept me stuck, knowing that there is a mystical potion of happy coming out with each little reveal. My fear kept me from trying. From dancing. My fear turned into other fears! It kept me from expressing my natural born talents. My gifts! My poor little gifts just ignored like that. How could I?! It controlled my decisions and kept me from connecting to
my creative spirit, the thing that sets me free and makes me...me.
The point I am trying to make here is that there is great freedom in honoring and accepting the fears or (what limitations you THINK) you have, but there is something even more magical that happens when you find the courage to tell the fears that limit you to go F off. Every time you do something that scares you, you get connected to the real you. The pre-all-that-crap-that-you-hold-onto YOU.
Today, as I sit in seat 13D, on my way to lead my adventure and yoga retreat in Ecuador, I am just about to explode out of my seat with joy. Seriously, ahhhhhh!!!
Without the massive layers of limitation I've worked on shedding, I would never have even dreamed that I was capable of putting something like this together. I was so scared to even toy with the idea of someday making this happen. Terrified. But guess what, it. Is. happening. We all have fears, we all have crappy memories that we carry, but they do not define us. If you carry your story around, like it is you, you will remain tied to it. "Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them." Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert! We are incredible human spirits that deserve every happiness. Believe that and watch your life transform.
A couple of days ago, a student came up to me after class. She looked at me, lifted up her shirt, grabbed her lower belly with both hands, pulled it forward, and tightly squeezed her fingers deep into her flesh. “Look how fat I am! I am disgusting! I hate my body!”
My heart broke into a million pieces and dropped deep into the pit of my stomach right then and there. I flashed back to being 12 years old and standing in front of the mirror in my bedroom, completely naked, using a magic marker to draw dotted lines along the parts of my body I dreamed about someday having liposuctioned. Once, I took a knife to my stomach thinking I could actually cut out some of the fat (thank god I was smart enough to not go through with something so ridiculous!) I remembered the hundreds of hours of self-hating, angry, defeated, rageful internal hate talk that I wasted so much energy on, so many days of my precious life being taken for granted all because of my obsession with not looking good enough.
The next day another student came up to me and said, “You know, you never looked different to me. I see some of these women at the gym and it’s so obvious! You didn’t look anorexic at all!
Um, thanks? This came as both a strange compliment, a surprise, and a hurtful stab. Partly this is because, as you know, I’ve recently taken my gentle, bruised heart and laid it out for all to see. It makes perfect sense that I’m in a sensitive place, but there’s so much more to this. You see, when I started recovery, when anyone is in recovery, it felt like all eyes are on you. It felt like everyone around me was constantly judging how my body was changing. It felt like EVERYONE knew I was gaining weight. Whether it was just my brain playing evil tricks on me or not, I could feel people looking at me (friends, family, strangers) and thinking I looked different, but not saying anything because they were just being nice. It felt like being 12 years old again, hating every part of my body, wanting to cut it off and scream and wail in a fury of disgust, except this time, I couldn’t “fix” it. I couldn't go backwards. Imagine your brain being stuck on a loop- a broken record if you will of “mean girls” slander.
I was trying to grow. I was crawling into the darkness to find some sense of what, at the seed of my soul I knew to be true.
When I realized I needed to heal, it was because I knew I wanted to be a source of love for the world around me and that, unless I loved myself in all my forms, the beautiful, the shameful, the joyful, the sadness, the fat, the rolls, everything, there was no way I could authentically give love to others. I could no longer starve myself because my body was literally not allowing it to happen. I could not longer diet, restrict, “just have a smoothie for dinner”, or “juice fast” for a few days to get “back on track” because I was recovering from a life of doing ALL those things ALL the time. This isn’t just about feeling guilty for eating two pieces of cake, or having too much pasta and physically feeling like crap because of it, this is a mind game. It’s about shame and the need for control and perfection. It’s about being in a constant state of feeling “not...enough” and only having freedom from that feeling when you starve.
What I’ve learned is that being true to yourself, being vulnerable, authentic, and real, is about loving and accepting yourself in every single fucking way. Loving myself means softening up on negative self talk, it means having compassion for myself when things don’t seem to be going right, it means being okay with my body no matter how my weight shifts. Today, I probably ate my weight in pumpkin peanut butter brownies... did I ruin my life? If you’d talked to me six month ago the answer would probably have been, yes. But guess what, today, it’s a hell no I did not ruin my life! I have a tummy ache, yes, so I won't do that again (haha!) but my life is not over! I am experiencing the gift of Fall and will eat all the pumpkin flavored everything Fall has to offer! It means looking at my belly rolls (everybody has these!) and smiling and being so fucking grateful that I have this vessel that helps me experience life’s joys and allows me to give love to the people around me. It means having that cupcake and taking a hot bath when I’ve had a rough day. It’s treating myself the way I would treat my daughter, my sister, my best friend. Can you imagine telling your best friend she is fat and ugly? I would NEVER say the things I’ve said privately to myself to another living soul! Never! You know why? Because it’s cruel. It’s abuse. It’s wrong on so many levels. It’s also not true and it’s MEAN. It means showing my deeply broken, child self that she is also worthy and deserving of love. So much of what we do and think is shaped by parts of our past that still need healing. Loving yourself is an unconditional act and that choice will ripple into every single part of your life.
From the perspective of someone recovering from any ED, saying that you can, “see women at the gym who are anorexic,” is probably not the most compassionate of things to say, but I get it. I get it because if you haven’t been there, there’s absolutely no way you will be able to comprehend this experience. I also get it because last year, I was one of those people who didn’t get it.
The world is not black and white. People are not just anorexic or obese or pretty or ugly. We are beautifully complex and unique. No one person is going to have the same exact body type as someone else and it is insane not to recognize that. We are gifted this beautiful fucking vessel so that we can walk, play with our children and nieces and nephews, pet puppies!, hang out with our best friends, pick up forks and flowers, give and get kisses, have sex!, buy dino kale, win at Scrabble, drink Kombucha, etc. I urge you to stop the negative self talk, the comparing your body to anyone else's, and do away with any sadness about the way you are in this exact moment. We talk to ourselves more than we talk to anyone else. Think about it. We live in our heads! Ask yourself if the words you secretly speak are words you would use with the people you love. We don’t have that much time on this earth. Start loving exactly who you are in this moment. Every. Single. Part. Deserves. Unconditional. Love.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we are.”- Brene Brown
I'm about to get really fucking real with you. About seven months ago, I started the most painful, lifelong journey I've ever chosen to go on and it's opened my eyes, mind, and my heart in epic ways. This post isn't sexy, or hot, or about how to get a big round ass and a tiny waist, and because of that, I believe many people will pass it by without a thought, because our worlds are often run by what we choose to see, ignoring the vulnerability and pain of ourselves and others; ignoring what makes us terribly uncomfortable, and what we consider to be unattractively real. What we've been ingrained since childhood to pay attention to, the easy stuff, the advertising and media lies we swallow, often removes us from connecting to the utmost strikingly beautiful, magical, energetically bountiful, and sometimes aching layers of our existence. It also hinders us from connecting to each other on a deeper level and I'm so over that kind of an existence.
This is about my experience with eating disorders and how they have been running the show since I can remember, and how it took me 30 years to recognize that I was paralyzed with the fear of being rejected for my body since I was just a little pumpkin (my Dad's childhood pet name for me!). I was a VERY obese kid. I was constantly harassed for my weight and treated like an outsider. Once, when I was in elementary school, I was invited to a birthday slumber party as a cruel joke and was instead locked inside a closet overnight by my peers (what the fuck, right?) I've never felt comfortable in my skin and I've almost always hated my body. I've always hidden this part of my inner brain workings from public view, but now, I want to be honest about how my entire life has revolved around losing weight and how, in so many ways, it kept me from really living.
Last summer, I decided to stop eating. My father had just died, my aunt had died a week prior to that, I'd broken up with my partner of 5 years, and this is going to sound crazy, but I was happier than I'd been in too long to remember. These events actually uplifted me, freed me in some way, gave me the mental and literal physical space, the freedom to recreate my life's desires. I'd never felt so broken open and I'd never craved emotional growth so intensely.
With all this time, I started to dream big and get productive as all hell. I also lost my hunger. Within just a few weeks of my dad's death I had dropped weight and looked different. This small physical shift turned on some kind of body obsession that had been dormant in me. Without thinking anything of it, I slowly started putting restrictions on what I ate. First, it was protein smoothies for breakfast, then, it was just vegetables, and before I knew it, I was just eating cucumber for dinner. Then I was skipping meals. Then I was only eating egg whites. Then I was just drinking coffee. I stopped eating fats, carbohydrates, and pretty much only consumed green vegetables and protein in extremely limited quantities everyday. This felt so normal for me and I honestly didn't think anything of it rather than, wow, I feel so damn good and I finally look how I've wanted to look my whole life! I am finally worthy. I am enough! I am experiencing perfection! ( PS these are thoughts of the illness and are not healthy in any way). It was so easy to restrict like this and it felt like I was finally in control of my body. I felt like I looked awesome. I got compliments. I felt confident. I felt full of love. I felt seen. But the kicker is that this was all solely based on what I weighed that day and how well I could see my ribs... I honestly STILL didn't feel small enough.This my friends, is what makes an eating disorder. Oh, hello my new friend, Anorexia.
When I lost my period, ( I've never used birth control and never even been late more than a few days) I thought nothing of it, but was gently urged by my ridiculously incredible boyfriend of the time to seek out medical advice. After 3 PCP visits over 3 months with no actual advice, I decided to see my OBGYN. I will never forget her words, “Darling, you aren't going to like this, but you may need to put on some weight.” I'm now embarrassed to admit that I broke down crying and continued to cry in my car, and in bathrooms, and on the kitchen floor everyday up until, well, now. Just kidding. What's important to understand is that this way of life was an obsession. It was an addiction to looking a specific way and feeling like my world would be over if I didn't meet these made up body criteria that CONTROLLED ME. I was weighing myself everyday and would actually dive into deep depression if the number shifted up even 2lbs. Now, writing that makes me cringe.
I went to MEDA ( Multi-service Eating Disorder Association), had an interview with an eating disorder specialist, and balled my eyes out as I seemed to answer yes to each question. Yes, I drink water to stave off hunger, yes, I chew gum so I won't eat. No, I don't want to tell you what I've eaten today because I'm embarrassed and know it wasn't enough...which would lead me to...the most painful journey I've ever chosen to go on. Recovery.
Hello uncomfortable feelings, hello refeeding, hello balance.
Choosing to develop emotionally is a fucking bitch. It hurts like a mofo and leaves you feeling like a crazy person who's escaped the insane asylum. It feels like taking a knife and stabbing yourself over and over and over until all you are is blood and guts lying in a nasty puddle in the middle of your kitchen floor. It's also so confusing. You can talk yourself into or out of something and then three minutes later realize what you've done and choose the right thing, but three more minutes later re-question yourself and then choose again, and so on and so forth. I am in no way finished with my journey. Every single time I eat and every single time I see myself in the mirror is an interesting new adventure and a test of where I am emotionally.
I have so far to go, BUT I have also come so far. Thank god for the support of my friends, thank thank thank god for yoga, and thank god for zumba. It's been a very private battle, but if you have ever taken any kind of class with me or taught class to me, you have helped immensely just by being in the same room as me. The love, the practice, the teachers, the people in the room, these things have kept me going more times than I could ever count.
The purpose of my sharing is just to get some conversation going about "health and fitness" out there. In the beginning of my recovery, I felt SO ALONE. If nothing else comes of this other than one single person realizing that they are NOT ALONE, I will be so freaking joyous. So many of us compare our bodies to images that are not real and to people who we are not. We don't know what these people's lives are like or what they are going through. We secretly speak cruelly to ourselves and punish ourselves for not looking as thin or "fit" as someone else. Guess what. You are you. We can't be someone else and why would we want to be. We are unique, incredible beings because of every single microscopic experience that we have had that no one else has! Comparison is the thief of joy and I for one will not stand for it. I want to make this shameful experience less shameful. It's time to support one another. If you are reading this, I think you are a fucking GORGEOUS soul. You heard it here and I'm not kidding around.
If you connect to this post in any way. It is. Worth. Every. Single. Second Of working past your fears.
The other side is more freeing, more beautiful, more authentic, and more love soaked then anything I could have ever imagined.
I am a love giving, yoga and dance teaching, peanut butter loving, cat lady, who advocates body empowerment, and is blessed to do what she loves everyday of her life.