Reading Challenge Book 1: The Glass Castle

On Friday I kick-started my reading challenge to read 16 books that have most impacted my life, starting from most recently read to the books most distantly, tracing my steps from the woman I am now, to the young girl I once was. I hope to find or reignite parts of me that have gone dormant through the course of my adulthood. I am excited to see where this journey goes and hope to gain some clarity and meaningful self-reflection along the way.

The first book on my list is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

This memoir kicked my emotional behind both the first time I read it and this most recent round.

About the book (you can scroll down to the next section if you’ve already read it):
For those who are not familiar with the memoir or the 2017 film adaptation, The Glass Castle is the remarkable story of Jeannette’s young life and her family’s tribulations through poverty, alcoholism, inexplicable parental neglect, love, survival, and resilience. It is filled with raw accounts of children learning how to feed, protect, and take care of themselves while their parents stood to the side, consumed with their own challenges, skewed perceptions, and selfish desires.

Rex, the Walls patriarch, was a brilliant exuberant force who instilled creativity, imagination, and deep resiliency within his children. Throughout this story, I found it hard not to be drawn in by his magnetism, despite his dangerous and debilitating penchant for alcohol. Yet for all his creativity, intelligence, and undeniable talents, Rex was clearly haunted by his own abusive upbringing and plagued by paranoid delusions, the cost of which, was his children’s well-being.

Rose Mary, the Walls matriarch, never once seemed particularly fond of her matriarch position. Over and over she failed to prioritize the care for her children out of resentment of having to give up her daydreams for their survival. Often blaming her alcoholic husband or simply because she did not want to, Rose Mary regularly refused to seek employment or to take any sort of responsibility for the lives she and Rex brought into the world.

While Rex’s behaviors were at times gut wrenching and utterly unforgivable, I find Rose Mary and her apathy the most difficult to comprehend. I know that this stems from my experience with my own mother and her similar disregard for taking care of my sisters and I; so please be aware that my perception has a biased skew.

One particular example of Rose Mary’s behaviors shined through when her children found a diamond ring. They brought the piece of jewelry to their mother to be appraised in hopes that they would have money to quell their starvation. Instead of choosing to feed her children, Rose Mary chose to keep the ring, explaining: “It could improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food (186).”

That is simply staggering to me. Especially, when this was not even the worst incident of her irresponsibility.

This is a challenging story to stomach and tugs hard on the emotions of any person, regardless of whether the Wall’s family experiences are near or far from your own. For me, while Jeannette’s and my upbringings are far from comparable, there were numerous trigger points planted throughout the memoir that set off memories of my own that I would usually prefer to leave untouched.  

Below are the two reactions I’ve had to The Glass Castle, the first occurring at 25 when I was still very much coming to terms with my own dysfunctional upbringing and the memories that were taunting me.  

Reaction at age 25:
I first read this memoir shortly after I moved to Virginia from Connecticut at the age of 25 in 2016. While I was excited about this new chapter of my life, I had never thought that I would return to Virginia and had to come to terms with the experiences I thought I had left behind.

About 7 years prior, I had moved to White Post, Virginia out of support for my mother who was fleeing Connecticut after the loss of her alcoholic husband, a two year probate battle with his family, bankruptcy, and years and years of familial and emotional chaos. My mother, who has been diagnosed with Narcissistic and Borderline Personality Disorder (NPD & BPD), thought this new place could give her the blissful life she thought she ought to have. To keep the story short, it did not and I was the one who took the brunt of her resulting volcanic breakdowns.

Two years into our Virginia escape, she had one particular breakdown triggered by my decision to attend a family gathering with my dad’s family. After expressing her profound and unbearable disappointment in me, she told me not to come home.

After years of doing all I could to earn her love, to gain her approval, and make her happy, I was finally released from an unattainable emotional contract I’d been forced into. And in a demonstration of the obedience she had instilled within me, I did as I was told.

We essentially have not spoken since.

As you may imagine, reading a book involving dysfunctional parents was not an especially healing experience. Even though it was about 5 years past that explosive day, during that first reading of The Glass Castle, a lot of old wounds were ripped open and I felt the newly constructed structures of my healing buckle under the weight of those most pernicious memories.

When I read I The Glass Castle in 2016, I saw the primary story as one of abuse and parental neglect. I was enraged and deeply unsettled by the fact that the Walls family could continue to meet at the Thanksgiving table despite their parents horrendous, and in my opinion, unforgivable actions – as well as inactions.

I could not comprehend Jeannette’s sense of love, forgiveness, and generosity for parents who, to my perception, could barely scrounge up the same for her or her siblings.

What incensed me about her parents is what I still find deeply challenging within my own; that is, the knowledge that they are unable, or simply choose not, to take accountability for their actions and for the weight of dejection they dropped on our childhoods.

One thing in particular that stood out to me at the time was when Jeannette’s parents would dismiss their children’s pains, hunger, and struggles by saying, “that which hurts you, only makes you stronger.”

I’ve heard this phrase a million times myself, and it is one that I have historically disliked. From my perspective at the time, the only “strength” obtained, were the emotional calluses that prevented severe blistering during the war of my mother’s episodes. Those blisters simply meant that I was able to stay in that relationship longer because of the shell I had built up to numb my reality.

Another point I found repugnant, was the praise of children from dysfunctional upbringings for their resiliency and adaptability. Did they not understand the cost we had to pay to earn those abilities? And did they not see the interest we were still paying to maintain our adeptness?

The cost of the Walls children was beyond evident as they had to become their own parents and ensure the survivability of the family. For me, I often had to step in as the counselor, consoler, and overall emotional support system for my mother, including one particular incident when I had to hold her hands down to keep her from, as she so often threatened, slamming me.

My ability to connect with others, to experience vulnerability, and have happy, healthy, and loving relationships has been substantially marred. My resiliency has been a wall. And my goodness, it has taken everything within me to try to take it down.

So the first reading of The Glass Castle was a complicated one. However, this memoir has lingered in my mind these past two years and it was the story that pushed me to restart therapy and take healing my emotional health more seriously. For all that it reopened my wounds, it gave me the push to get them firmly closed.

Reaction at age 27:
I was not super keen about having The Glass Castle be the book to kick-start my reading challenge. I knew it would draw out some of my most uncomfortable experiences and also knew it would be a challenging book to write a reflection for. Yet, every time I tried to add another book or re-arrange the order, somehow I always came back to the one that starts with this memoir.

So, did two years make a difference in my reaction?

Yes and no.

I definitely still felt quite a bit of anger and frustration towards Jeannette’s parents (with continued resentment for her mother specifically). When reading about the depth of poverty and the depth of irresponsibility displayed by Jeannette’s parents, it’s very hard not to.  However, there were three takeaways that I did not have during that first reading.

For one thing, my ability to emotionally bounce back from especially poignant passages was far faster than it was before. While the last reading created lots and lots and lots of ruminating, obsessing, and overall unhealthy thought bundling; this time, when I felt the snap of frustration build up, I was able to ease out of it within moments and continue on my way.

There’s a second point that stood out to me that I was not yet ready to see at age 25. Our parents, regardless of where they stand on the spectrum of function to dysfunctional, have a lot of teach us, so long as we are willing to listen to their lessons. Those lessons come in so many different forms and sometimes cannot be understood until you step away and place some time in between. Some of those lessons are kind and inspiring, while others are bleak and heartbreaking.

Rose Mary could see the beauty in unusual things and taught her children to see the world more openly. During one of the most beautiful moments in The Glass Castle, Rex taught his children that the best gifts of life cannot be wrapped in a box and are far more lasting than the plastic toys found at a store. These kinds of moments matter, even when the overall experience is less than inspiring.

For me, the good moments I had with my mother instilled hope, creativity, and furthered my imagination. The bad moments, alternatively,  have helped me assess how I choose to treat others by reflecting on how I wish I had been treated. There is a depth of patience and empathy I hold for strangers that I do not think I would have, were it not for the negative experiences of my upbringing.  I am grateful for those lessons and hope I see more of them as I continue to grow and heal.

The last takeaway was something that could only have occurred at this point in my life.

Throughout the memoir, it is clear that Jeannette and her father had a particularly strong bond. It was clear because Rex often told Jeannette that she was is favorite. And while that is perhaps not the best form of parenting, that love was true and clearly helped Jeannette become the woman she is. It is that love she held onto when she got off a bus in New York to begin a new life. This is one of my favorite moments:

For years Dad had been telling me I had an inner beauty. Most people didn’t see it. I had trouble seeing it myself, but Dad was alwaysing saying he could damn well see it and that was what mattered. I hoped when New Yorkers looked at me, they would see whatever it was that Dad saw (245).

When I first read this passage, I was jealous of Jeannette. I was envious of her having a parent who could see her and who loved what they found. As far as I can tell, my parents did not have that insight and as I grew up, I hoped that others would see what my parents seemed to ignore or possibly dislike.

Today though, I do have a community of people who support me and seem to see something in me that I’ve never been able to. When I left my job about three weeks ago, so many colleagues came forward and told me how much I meant to them and to the organization, and how much of an impact I was leaving behind. A number of people told me that they wanted to write letters of recommendation when I begin the process of seeking employment, and person after person reminded me that I would always be part of the family.

I was not expecting this outpouring of support and have somewhat found it challenging to process it. What I hope, as Jeannette hoped, is that when others look at me, they see whatever it is my working family sees.

In Conclusion
While it has been an emotionally revealing experience, I am glad that I chose to start my reading challenge with Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle. I wanted to go on this journey to bring back memories that have faded and re-reveal parts of me that I, or others, have pushed aside. I can see that in just two years, so much of my life has changed and so much has improved.

I am excited to see where the rest of this journey leads me and what it will reveal about myself.

If you have not read The Glass Castle, I highly recommend giving this book a read (with a box of tissues handy). There’s also a film adaptation (trailer below) featuring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts. I haven’t seen it yet, so if you think it’s worth a watch, let me know!

And if you have a stack of books that have made an impact on you, it may be time to give them another read – you never know what you’ll find.

Up Next
The next book on my reading challenge adventure is Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations! In my post on February 10, I’ll reflect on how this book helped me in the first few months after the separation from my mother while I was studying abroad in London.

As a reminder, below is the schedule of books that I’ll be reading and reflecting upon, if any of these books are your favorite, please pop by and share your experience!

February 10: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – originally read at age 20
February 14: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – originally read at age 20
February 17: Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver – originally read at age 18
February 21: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley – originally read at age 17
February 24: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – originally read at age 16
February 27: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – originally read at age 15
March 4: The Odyssey by Homer – originally read at age 14
March 11: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – originally read at age 13
March 14: A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin – originally read at around age 11/12
March 17: Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip – originally read at around age 11/12
March 20: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – originally read at around age 10/11
March 23: Squire by Tamora Pierce – originally read at around age 10
March 25: Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine – originally read at around age 10
March 27: Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne – originally read at around age 8
March 29: The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen – read to me at around age 5/6

See you on Sunday!

Walls, Jeannette, The Glass Castle. Scribner, New York. 2005

Reading Challenge: 16 Books to Trace My Steps

It has been 3 weeks since my last day of work. In these twenty-one days I’ve experienced a wide spectrum of feeling from restlessness to excitement, I’ve been energized and completely exhausted, hopeful to painfully uncertain. As I’ve made my way through this health hibernation, I’ve bumped into a nagging sense of disorientation, almost as if I’ve misplaced something and can’t quite figure out how to find the missing answer.

Due to the almost daunting amount of solo time, there has been a lot of space filled with contemplation, reflection, and (unhelpful) conversations with myself. I began wondering what would I do right now with this free time if I wasn’t sick, if I had energy, if there were no limiting factors.

I am in this incredible, wide open space. I’m in a pause and can re-calibrate my life to the one I truly want. Yet, despite my best efforts to meditate, read my palms following Google Images, and analyze the coffee grinds in my mug, the answers have not made themselves readily available to me. It’s been frustrating and has fueled a burning impatience I have for myself.

The thing is, I remember there being a time when I was full of creativity, excitement, imagination, and readiness to explore. I was open, free minded, and knew what brought me joy. So why is it, that within all this open space, I can’t seem to pick a direction?

When we lose something, we retrace our steps to find misplaced items. I am going to attempt to replicate this practice in hopes of finding that part of me that has gone dormant through the course of my adulthood. And I have identified the exact thread and pathway that will lead me to where I want to go.

For the next two months, I will be re-reading the 16 books that have most touched, impacted, and influenced my life; going in order of most recently read, to most distantly.

There is no other factor, no other piece of my life that has more defined and shaped me than my love of books. They have guided me, taught me, healed loneliness, inspired motivation, and provided light when the distance ahead or the time behind has felt daunting or painful. I can still feel and remember the utter exhilaration I enjoyed when I first learned to read. Words suddenly left their state of inertia and sprang into life. It was the closest experience to magic I have ever encountered. I intend to recreate that feeling and see the directions that light may reveal.

Despite the fact that I was put in the lowest reading group in first grade, by the third grade I was reading ravenously and could not find enough books to satiate my infatuation. Within the pages of books I have traveled to dozens of worlds, seen the rise of heros and the descent of villains, watched the disparity of wars transform into peace, witnessed the unlikeliest of friendships to be born, experienced the victories of courage and the despair of fear, and have been on more adventures than I could ever have in my own life.

And while I’ve remained an avid reader, in the last decade I’ve found myself lost in what sparks interest and have found that old zing and zest to be deeply subdued. I’ve been tired, restless, and aimless, hoping that I’ll somehow stumble upon the career or the life that I want. So far that tactic has been fruitless and my most ardent affirmation has become: “I don’t know”.

Yet, somewhere within me, I suspect that I do know.

So, beginning today, I will read my way back to myself and back to the young girl still excited and open to possibilities. My hope is that I knock over some of the walls I’ve built up and rediscover parts that have been living latent beneath those structures. If nothing else comes to be, this will at the very least reconnect me to my deep love of books, and bring a lightness to the deep weight of my restlessness.

Below are the books that I will be reading and the order I’ll be reading them in:

February 5: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – originally read at age 25
February 10: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – originally read at age 20
February 14: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – originally read at age 20
February 17: Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver – originally read at age 18
February 21: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley – originally read at age 17
February 24: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – originally read at age 16
February 27: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – originally read at age 15
March 4: The Odyssey by Homer – originally read at age 14
March 11: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – originally read at age 13
March 14: A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin – originally read at around age 11/12
March 17: Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip – originally read at around age 11/12
March 20: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – originally read at around age 10/11
March 23: Squire by Tamora Pierce – originally read at around age 10
March 25: Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine – originally read at around age 10
March 27: Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne – originally read at around age 8
March 29: The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen – read to me at around age 5/6

On the dates above, I’ll share my recollection of the initial impact these books had on me when I first read them as well as my reflection of their impact today at age 27. I may have been a bit ambitious with a few of these and some of the dates may change, but I am a fast reader and hope I can get through these at the pace I’ve tracked.

As I’ve pulled these books out of my bookshelf and ordered them from Barnes and Noble, I’ve already begun to feel a zing of excitement and anticipation. I haven’t looked at or thought of some of these stories in over a decade and it almost feels like a family reunion. I’m excited to get started.

In these three weeks I have felt the urgency of needing to figure out my next steps, to get my health into gear, and orient myself towards my future employment. But I also see that in many ways, I have not changed my behaviors from the ones that triggered my health crash back in October. I am still pushing, shoving, and beating myself up for not having it all together.

For while I have built a daily meditation practice, have established an exercise regimen, attend career counseling, and attempt to eat healthier, there is something undeniably missing from my Wellness Journey.

That missing piece is the space to rest, reflect, and absorb healing.

I suspect I’ll be able to find all of those things while on this reading journey.

Windows Open, Windows Close: A Lesson in Willingness

What does it take to build the life you want? I’m learning that such a road is not so simple to construct.

Since October 26, I’ve been trying to establish the healthy habits I need to give myself my best chance at a happy and fulfilling future. For over three years I’ve been struggling with symptoms stemming from a genetic disorder (homozygous MTHFR C677T). During these three years, my life has consisted of working, commuting, therapy, going to doctor appointments, and recuperating from all of the above. I am tired all the time and, as a result, have missed out on so much. The physical symptoms have certainly been challenging and I never really know how I’m going to feel the next day. It has been deeply frustrating and has simultaneously exasperated a lot of emotional baggage I’ve struggled to get past.

When I first got the results from a blood test that positively showed the genetic mutation, I was relieved. For years, I had been complaining about constant fatigue, bouts of dizziness, aches, and sporadic issues with my breathing. Doctors repeatedly told me that I had an anxiety disorder and placed me on Zoloft to mollify my complaints. They also gave me an inhaler in case my lungs acted up; which, for the record, never, ever worked. Even though I didn’t quite agree with the diagnosis, the medication seemed to help the breathing troubles and for about a year, I came to believe that the doctors were correct. I dismissed the fatigue and the dizziness for stress and hypothesized an inner ear issue. However, when the breathing issues came back, even after almost 2 years of being on Zoloft, I knew something more substantive was going on.

On one particular day, I was having an especially difficult time breathing. It wasn’t that my lungs weren’t working, it’s that my throat kept tightening to the point where it felt like it would close – but never actually did. I was frazzled, annoyed, and felt completely let down down. I had been willing the suck up the aches and discomfort, but the breathing troubles honestly scared me and I didn’t know what to do. My family had also become fairly dismissive of my ongoing complaints, telling me that I was being dramatic and needed more activity in my life to be healthier. But I thought I had things handled and under control; I had done what I was instructed: I took the medication, went to therapy, did yoga, and had a full-time job. What the heck else was I missing?

It was around this time that I had spoken with my aunt about my cousin who had been battling a particularly brutal exposure to mold which was causing substantial chronic symptoms (including chronic fatigue). My aunt had begun to think I was similarly afflicted.

I went to my primary care doctor with this information and lots of heaving. However, when I told her about my cousin, she dismissed the issue for the mere fact that she had never heard of such a thing. She then gave me a prescription for Xanax and essentially told me to go calm down.

The neurotically obedient part of me wanted to do as I was told, but the part of me that did not get better after taking said Xanax, was pissed and wanted answers.

Finding an Alternative

After hearing this story, that same aunt suggested I meet with her naturopath to see if he could provide answers. I was a little hesitant to see someone who didn’t have a MD and questioned his ability to provide real answers. But I was also desperate.

Expecting the doctor to ask purely medical questions, I internally ran through all of my symptoms, ready to provide an accurate timeline of all my unhealthy on-goings. However, for the first 30 minutes all he asked me about was my mental health and the emotional challenges I’d long been battling. At first I thought he was leading me back to the anxiety disorder diagnosis, but instead he ultimately showed me how deeply the trauma of my childhood and early adulthood were continuing to affect me. He also suspected that I had the MTHFR genetic mutation, which would explain the confusing symptoms.  

He told me he could help me build the physical health practices I needed, but that I would never be fully well if I continued to drag the emotional pains along with me. I had briefly mentioned the alcoholism that had killed my step-father when I was 16, the taxing 2 years my parents took to divorce, my mother’s difficult parenting and challenges with NPD and BPD (narcissitic & borderline personality disorder), and that day in 2011 when she told me not to come home. Even though, by that appointment, I had spent at least a year in therapy, those events and issues were still deeply latched to my life and I felt like I was suffocating.

So when the results came in and confirmed that I am homozygous MTHFR C677T (I’ll try to explain what this is in another post), I was relieved. I finally had an answer.

And then what followed, was the crushing impact of defeat.

Working Down the Timeline

For twenty years, I had been trapped in a suppressive household with a mother whose love was inconsistent and had to be earned through an erratic merit system. During those years, I desperately wanted to make my mother happy, and in so wanting, gave piece after piece of myself away to image myself in the form she prefered. Of course, that preference constantly changed and my success was never possible.

It took everything to walk away from the only love I thought I would ever have. For even though her treatment of me was deeply damaging, I never stopped craving her approval.

While that relationship ended abruptly, there was nothing else clean about the cut. For one thing, I had, and continue to work through, an eating disorder and substantial self-loathing. Up until one year ago, I had to keep a blanket over my mirror out of shame for the way I look. I am a 27 year-old woman and I can still feel my mother pinch the skin of my stomach, derisively snark about my “fluffy” attributes, and threaten surgery for an already fixed under-bite because she feared I would become disfigured.

By that appointment though, I had spent some time working through the emotional bruises and thought that I was doing fairly well. Yet, when I realized that having a genetic disorder meant I’d have symptoms for the rest of my life, I felt all the doors I’d shoved open slam shut on me.

As I saw it, this disorder was another prison and that my very short window of freedom was over. I had already given up my entire childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood for my mother and now this health issue was claiming all the years that would follow.

For the following 8 months (about), I had horrible brain fog that wiped out my ability to problem solve, I was drowning in constant fatigue, had deep aches running through my neck and shoulders, could not retain an ounce of new information, lost chunks of my memory, and struggled to understand words when people spoke to me or when I tried to read. Even though we knew about the genetic mutation, we still didn’t (and to this day do not) know the full causation for these symptoms. Nor did we know how long they would last and/if they would return.

Windows Open, Windows Close

Fortunately, the symptoms did lighten up that spring and I was ready to pounce on a better life. That opportunity ended up being in Washington, DC at a climate organization. When I got that job offer, I promised myself that I would fill this opportunity with all that I have and that this window of health would not be for nothing. And so I did. I was the first one in the office and was often the last one to leave. I put in every effort to each of my tasks and strived to be as dependable as I could be. I then carried those habits into the job that followed.

And when the symptoms starting ramping back up last fall (2017), I chose to ignore them, push through, and see how far I could extend my limits. I wasn’t ready for my window to close.

Of course, my window did close on October 26 when I ended up in the ER, tapped to a bag of fluids, and reprimanded by doctors for my very evident symptoms of exhaustion. Once again I felt defeated and angry at the Universe for impeding my ability to live a full life.

But within all of that anger, I sought something that could help me see the situation differently and give me the strength to pull myself together. For although my symptoms are challenging, they are not terminal, and although they are uncomfortable – sometimes substantially so, they are not debilitating.

Willing a Different Perspective

That’s when I decided to start this blog and track my wellness journey. That’s when I knew I was finally ready and fully willing to tackle my whole health.

Here is what I am able see now, that I wasn’t able or willing to, back in 2015: my health is not a prison. It is my opportunity to give my body, mind, and spirit all the love, health, and attention it needs and was deprived of for so long.

To be clear, I am not dismissing the challenges it brings nor the disappointments I’ve experienced and may experience in the future. I am also certainly not saying that this mindset is the right one for anyone else who struggles with their health. But, I see now that I will always have to put my health first, even after 27.7 years of it existing at the very bottom of the priority list. No one (that I know of) has ever put me first and now that gets to be my priority for the rest of my life.

It feels a little weird to go as far as to say that this is a gift – because I would have prefered a nice bouquet of instant confidence or peonies – but I think that’s what this may be.

Today it all feels a little extra poignant as it has been one week since my job ended and I officially began my healing hibernation. In these last few weeks, my co-workers have swarmed around me and provided me with more love, care, and support then I think any other person or group ever has. Their kindness has been a substantial motor of motivation to get my health on track.

Although there is a bit of an abyss ahead of me and my health continues to be a challenge, I am so grateful for this space and time to focus on myself. Between my obsession with Gabby Bernstein, my bi-weekly art therapy sessions, and following the amazing team at Tone It Up, I have all the resources I need to be successful in prioritizing my whole health. I also have a willingness and determination that is no longer tethered to old existing suppression.

So to return to my initial question: What does it take to build the life you want? I don’t know all the steps, but I’ve got the first one down: be willing.

Kicking my bum into gear (with pancakes)

If it hasn’t already been made clear, let me set the record straight: I don’t really know what I’m doing. Which is why I am leaning on some of my favorite, most trusted leaders in health and wellness to lead the way.

As I mentioned 4 days ago, in addition to continuing my meditation practice, I am focusing more of my attention on my physical health. This week I’ve been working on eating more intentionally and exercising consistently. At this time, I don’t know a lot about nutrition and that lack of knowledge has led me to some inconsistent and unhealthy patterns. Also, like many women (and men), I have years of body shame and discomfort to wash away and I’d like to do so with some fun and positivity. That’s where Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, the founders of Tone It Up, come in.

I first discovered Karena and Katrina’s fitness videos when I was senior in college and was too embarrassed to workout at the campus gym. I was self-conscious of my poor shape and did not want any of my peers to see me red-faced, gasping, and clutching at the arms of the treadmill to keep me from falling and richochetting across the room. I was by no means someone people noticed and did not feel that such an event would give me attention I may like.

Karena and Katrina’s videos, though, made me feel like I had personal trainers; two people who had my back, did not judge me, and wanted me to be my best self. The work-outs are typically pretty short, but man-oh-man, do they kick my butt. Whatsmore, Karena and Katrina have a talent for pep, a deep knowledge of physical fitness and nutrition, as well as an exuberance for coaching self-love.  

Unfortunately, though, I never really stuck to a regiment for a long period of time. Like many others, I got busy or decided that I wanted ice cream more than I wanted to do squats. However, I can no longer allow those excuses to hold power over me. Having the health issue I have (genetic disorder/mutation homozygous MTHFR C677T), I must give my body my very best if I want to keep my body from crashing.

When I was in the ER back in October, I knew I had to make a change and build lifelong healthy habits that will enable me I to live my best life, regardless of this genetic disorder. There are so many things I want to do but need a healthy body to do so. I want to paddle board Lake Tahoe, I have a mountain bike I’ve almost never used, I want to hike Machu Picchu, end my almost 15 year hiatus from skiing, I’d like to try rock climbing, go snowshoeing in Vermont, and go kayaking New Zealand’s Fiordland.

There is so much world out there and I don’t want my body and my health to be a limitation that keeps me from experiencing it. I also want to stay away from the ER.

To get my bum into gear, I’m turning to my Tone It Up membership and nutrition plan as well as the Tone It Up Studio App. Both of which have been created with absolute care and intention to help women achieve sustainable wellness and health.

I may not know what I’m doing, but the amazing team at Tone It Up does, and I’m excited and finally ready to take their advice.

My goals are simple: I want to eat healthy, clean foods that nourish my body and I want to engage in fun, energy boosting exercises that give my body the strength it needs to go on adventures and combat the chronic symptoms when they percolate up.

This morning, with my beautiful copy of the “Tone It Up Nutrition Plan”, I made the iconic Tone It Up pancakes with their Perfect Fit Protein. First of all, I finally learned how to flip a pancake – so victory is already mine (I did dance around my kitchen in celebration). Second, it was delicious and seriously uplifting to know I was eating something that was filled with ingredients that will set me up for an energized day.

The “Nutrition Plan” is filled with beautiful recipes that look amazing and I can’t wait to dig in. Just in limiting my sugar intake for the past three days, the aches in my head, neck, and shoulders have subsided – a miracle I am immeasurably grateful for.

In addition to following the guidance of the TIU nutrition plan, I’ve also been using the Studio App to follow the daily fitness lessons. I’m clearly not in fantastic shape as I haven’t exercised since my trip to the ER back in October and I’m still experiencing chronic symptoms. However, I find myself purely grateful for the effort and when I need to modify, slow down, or even stop, I hold no resentment or judgement.

I know there are days ahead of me where maintaining this journey and this effort will be more challenging. I have a strong lazy streak and there are days I will need to have some firm words with myself. However, I hope I can sustain the gratitude, the good intention, and powerful feeling of self-love I’ve begun to be filled by.

Work in Progress

Earlier this week I spoke about how incredible I felt having completed Gabby Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles 40-day guidebook. Her words of wisdom have been so impactful and I am grateful to have her lessons in my life.

Now though, I think I may have been a bit high on the excitement of having completed the guidebook. I see that I am still very much in the beginning phase of my wellness journey and still have quite a road ahead of me.

Three days ago I was pretty pepped about my shiny future and was at ease by the uncertainty ahead of me. In particular, I had momentarily stopped worrying about my near-ending-employment, the fact that I have to move soon, my ongoing health challenges, and my finances to support those three items. Today that seems miraculous because the weight of those items feels elephant sized.

Despite that initial zing, the next day I was panic flipping through rental and job listings for places and positions I don’t really want. Just as quickly as I had announced my bff relationship status with uncertainty, I turned around and tried to rekindle my dependency to my old pals certainty and reliability. I told myself that I couldn’t just sit around and wait, because that is irresponsible and I am not traditionally a fan of doing (or not doing) anything that is irresponsible.  

If you ask my friends or family what words they would use to describe me, the terms I’m sure would come up are: responsible, dependable, hard-working, rule-lover, rule-enforcer, might-have-a-future-as-a-dictator, a-smidge-rigid. I used to give my parents “write-ups” on sticky notes whenever they broke a law of the road. I was a proctor in high school and found joy (and zero popularity) in disciplining my peers. For two decades, I have been more dedicated to this sense of urgency to be good and well-behaved than I have been to almost anything else.

Being responsible has defined me and stepping away from that structure is deeply uncomfortable and is forcing me to reexamine who I want to be. It’s apparent to me now – and also probably to everyone else looking in – that breaking this pattern is going to take more than 40 days.

I have this memory from when I was a little girl. My sisters and I had been invited to one of their friend’s houses to use their above ground pool. I didn’t really know how to swim and had one of those bathing suits that have foam tubes in the lining to enable your little munchkin to become a baby buoy. Unfortunately for me, my mother had been taking the foam out of my bathing suit, hoping that I would figure out how to swim without them.

While everyone else was having fun and enjoying themselves, I ended up spending the entire afternoon clinging to the side of the pool, just inching around the circumference because I was afraid that if I let go, I would sink.

Admittedly, that fear may have been fair and swimming lessons are very important.

However, now, as I reflect on the things that have kept me from healing, growing, and enjoying my true self, I can see how much that moment and experience as a little girl, has transcended into so many other aspects of my life as an adult. For so long, I have felt as though I’ve had to cling to the structures I’ve built around myself out of constant fear that their collapse would mean mine as well.

I have to trust myself and have faith that the best thing for me is to let go of the wall. By now, it’s no longer serving or protecting me; it’s just making it harder for me to go forward and for me to let go.

There’s a quote from Oscar Wilde that I love and feels particularly poignant: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

I think I’ve been sub-existing and to be doing this thing of leaving my good job to focus on my health feels crazy; but if it gets me closer to living, it will have been worth it.

So what am I going to do about the anxiety that is still percolating?

First thing: I am giving myself permission to rest. I have been struggling with my health for three years and I am allowed to take this time for myself and give my body what it needs to heal.
* I will also sleep whenever my body calls me to, without judgement
Second: I will continue to meditate every morning and evening on feelings of love, joy, excitement, and gratitude to raise my vibration and attract light into my life.
Third: In addition to my spiritual wellness, I will continue working with my doctors and take the supplements they recommend.  
Fourth: I will feed my body with healthy foods so that my body receives the nourishment it needs to be balanced and happy.
Fifth: When able, I will exercise to strengthen my body and to burn through any ruminating anxieties.
* I will slow down or modify when my body tells me to, without judgement
Sixth: When I feel called to, I will research jobs and apartments. However, the moment I feel my heart rate flutter up, I will return to my meditation pillow and release my fears to love and light.
Seven: Continue to keep my heart, ears, and eyes open to the advice of others. This may be my first rodeo, but there are many who have lots of guidance and wisdom I can learn from.

These are light and achievable touches that both enforce accountability for my wellness journey and allows me to step away from my (neurotic) tendencies. Allowing myself to rest is imperative, and if I push myself too hard too fast, I’ll just end up right where I started – crashed and burned out.

I owe it to myself to give myself the care and dedication I’ve been spending on others and my job. And so do all of you.

For as much as this is my journey, I know that there are many, many folks out there who have also struggled and continue to struggle with their health, with their careers, relationships, and so on. My thoughts are with you and I hope we all fortify the courage we need to give ourselves the love and care we deserve.

Miracles Happen

It has been forty-three days since I began Spirit Junkie, Gabby Bernstein’s, May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness. I can honestly, truly say that this book, Gabby’s guidance, and my newly budding faith in the Universe, has got quite a kick.

Yesterday was in fact the last day and lesson of my May Cause Miracles experience, and my goodness what a journey it has been.

When I first began May Cause Miracles, I was optimistic and hopeful that this book could help me shift my perception from one of panic to one of certainty. And quite frankly, that’s not exactly what has happened.

I thought that I would know where I should be working, where I should be living, and have all my life (or at least the next year) clearly drawn in front of me. That’s the certainty I was hoping for. What I got, however, was substantially more profound and will give me lifelong guidance rather than a short term fix for temporary anxiety.

Today as I sat upon my meditation pillow and let the quiet settle in, I was met with warm comfort and absolute trust in my past, present, and future. Forty-three days ago, the anxiety of the unknown would have walloped me in a crashing wave, let me tumble around, and drag me back in with the undertow.

Here are the big ticket items that were gnawing at my stomach:

  • Health: I was in a reluctant spiral of worrying that my health issues were something bigger than I knew. I was angry and resentful that my body was taking away my opportunities to have a happy life. I was terrified that my body was shutting down in a way that would not recover.
  • Career: After my health crash and decision to resign from my (great) job, I worried that I was throwing a good thing away and that I was being ungrateful. I thought: how can I ever expect another good job, when I’ve walked away from this one? Am I even worthy of a good job?
  • Location: My lease is ending at the end of February due to renovations and I was annoyed, although slightly amused, that in addition to dealing with my health challenges and leaving my job, I now also need to find a new home. I felt stuck and fearful. Should I return to my home state of Connecticut? Should I stay in Virginia? Will I ever feel at home?
  • Finances: No job = no income. I have things I need to pay for, including: doctor’s appointments, the fancy, expensive, plant based supplements they prescribe, super healthy, organic food, rent, and my upcoming move.

I can honestly stand here today and tell you that those fears, anxieties, and unhealthy ruminating thoughts have ceased. And it isn’t that I no longer prioritize those situations or have decided not to take action towards finding solutions for them. What I do have, is complete and thorough faith that everything will come together. After all, I have experienced first hand, in these 42 days, just how powerful a miracle mindset is.

I’ve had money come in through unexpected places, my health insurance is going to be covered for several more months (this one really knocked me over), the tap of my anxiety has been shut off, and my perspective of my health has shifted from one of resentment to one of gratitude. In so many amazing, and sometimes tangible ways, the Universe and the people I love have stepped up for me.

Forty-three days ago I believed that faith was blind. I thought I understood it to be this leap into a dark abyss and perceived it as potentially irresponsible. I see now that I was wrong. Faith is not blind, faith is wide open.

I am open to whatever is coming my way, I am open to trust, I am open to faith in the Universe. Even if those things are substantially challenging, I have everything I need to get through with light, love, and gratitude.

Even as I type this, a part of me expects to cringe internally at the hoakiness, but I fully believe it. I have gone from being terrified of the unknown to embracing it with happiness and excitement.

Yesterday I was feeling into my gratitude for the journey May Cause Miracles has taken me on. I was reflecting on the fact that that I’ve had this book on my shelf for at least 5 (but possibly more) years. My step-mom had been at some sort of convention where Gabby Bernstein had spoken and had felt that I would enjoy her book. She was right, I just wasn’t ready at that time. I needed a push (aka ending up in the ER) to finally reach out for the help I needed – that was waiting for me.

I am so grateful and feel all bright and shiny with love, happiness, and excitement for this life I’m living.

At 10pm last night, despite not expecting anything, I felt like I needed to go check the mail. When I opened it, I found a box from my dad and step-mom. I figured I had left something at their house at Christmas, but when I opened I almost burst into tears of laughter and deep love.

It was a copy of Gabby Bernstein’s Spirit Junkie. A signed copy.

A pretty magical way to conclude the last day of May Cause Miracles.

So what’s next on my quest for wellness?

For one thing, a continued dedication to my new meditation practice. I want meditation to be a pillar of my day and want to ensure that I stay dedicated to consistent practice. I’m setting up reminders in my phone so that I don’t let myself off the hook.

The next big item to tackle is my physical health. And yes, when I say that, I do hear Olivia Newton John singing “Let’s get physical” in my head.

While I’m still experiencing the symptoms from the genetic disorder (homozygous MTHFR C677T), I want to strengthen my body, fuel it with love and nutrition, and give it the care it needs so that I can live my best life. Since I’m still very much in learning mode, I’m turning to experts who I trust will lead me well.

For me, those experts are Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, the founders of Tone It Up. They are the positive, fun, and inspiring leaders I need to kick my body into shape and coach me on nutrition. On these subjects I am pretty ignorant and have never managed to consistently exercise or eat well. Their book Balanced and Beautiful is my go-to for advice on how to incorporate love, intention, and balance into my physical self-care practice.

I’ve reactivated my membership, downloaded their app, and am ready to get started.

I will do this incrementally, without judgement, appreciation for the body I’ve been given, and my new understanding the miracles happen and manifest through love.

New Year Junk Removal

This New Years I am setting my intentions towards clean and healthy beginnings.

For the past two months, I have been building a wellness foundation to help me heal from a health crash back in October. It is going to take a lot of work, but work that I am really excited to jump into. However, rather than list out all of the lofty ambitions I want a shiny trophy for at the top of 2020, I am going to dedicate the last 24 hours of 2018 to a clean start.

I am pulling out my boxes and filling them up with all of the items that no longer serve me and will not serve the version of me I hope to be growing into. I started picking up a few items here and there, and now I’m grabbing armfuls of books, clothes, knick-knacks, and mugs (there are so many mugs).

Admittedly, I was a little disgruntled to see this growing pile of items I’ve paid gobs for and yet have either never or rarely used. Why have I been holding onto so much stuff? Two reason:

  1. They were fillers for an identity I wished to have
  2. They were supposed to motivate or reward a body I do not have (specifically around clothing)

For example: I have a number of beautiful pencil skirts that were given to me by my aunts when I first graduated college. They’re pretty, classy, and would have been lovely for meetings on the Hill. For these past 5 years, they’ve been a shiny reminder of the career I thought I was supposed to have and a body that I thought should have been able to fit into them. Unfortunately, they ended up feeding the disappointment I felt around my career and the on-going shame that my petite frame (5ft and size OO) did not look flattering inside those pin straight lines.

As I was grabbing clothes to put in my donation boxes, I kept thinking about those skirts and how much I really didn’t want to let them go. Yet, there is an absolute discomfort I feel when I see them, and much of that discomfort comes from the fact that I know that I will never wear them.

You may be thinking that this seems minute, trivial, and perhaps a bit inconsequential. You would be correct. But that’s part of the problem.

I’ve built goals and pieces of identity around objects and items of clothing that in no way, shape or form, serve me or my life. They take up space and could be in the closet of someone who will actually wear them to the type of job they’re suited for (vs the crunchy, wellness, wearing braids, and om chanting career I’m leaning towards).

It’s time to clean up and clear out.

Part of this process is allowing myself to witness the moments of discomfort without judgement and to begin the process of letting go of the feelings I have and their (kind of dumb) magnetism to the junk I’ve filled my apartment with.

When the clock strikes midnight and 2019 begins, I will have left behind the items, the feelings, the experiences that have been weighing me down, taking up space, and overstaying their welcome.

It’s a pretty cathartic experience and Freddie Mercury belting out “We Will Rock You” in the background has been the spice and kick I need to get this done. Just as a general note, I highly recommend all chore-like activities to be done to the songs of Queen – makes it 100% more fun.

What are you doing to prepare for the new year? I’d love to hear about what’s getting you jazzed about 2019.

Affirmations > Tears

What a week.

I want to say first that Gabby Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles is pretty damn powerful and all the daily lessons have been creating some substantial, positive shifts in my life. I am so grateful that I have her guidance to help me through this transition in my career, with my ongoing health challenges, and overall journey to wellness. I think I would be in a drastically different head space right now if I didn’t incorporate her daily words of wisdom into my life.

I truly mean this. However, I don’t want to pretend that everything has been going perfectly or that have I been able to maintain the consistent positivity of the Glenda the Good Witch (because I haven’t). This week has probably been the most challenging I’ve had in with my health since I ended up in the ER a little over a month ago.

For reference, I have a genetic disorder or mutation – I’ve never exactly figured out how to describe it – called MTHFR C677T (homozygous). Which I believe means that I don’t (or nearly don’t) methylate, which is important for breaking down toxins and repairing cells. When I’m exposed to things such as mold, fungus, heavy metals, pollutants, etc, my body isn’t able to flush it out. I therefore can become quite unwell. For the past three years I’ve been working through symptoms of chronic fatigue, aches & pains, lethargy, headaches, and terrible brain fog.

This week my cognition abilities have substantially declined. My mind struggles to process information, to retain instructions, to find memories, speak articulately, and is generally slow as sludge. I keep finding myself getting lost in sentences to the point where I’m nearly stuttering. It’s not pleasant and I have felt pretty let down by body. It has also made doing my job kind of a nightmare. It’s hard to do tasks when I, for the life of me, cannot understand what people are saying to me – even when they speak slowly or write down their instructions.

I went to my natural doc on Friday who thinks my symptoms sound like Lyme disease or some other chronic ailment. I am from Connecticut and Lyme-carrying-ticks are pretty much our mascot, so I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. And at this point, I’m praying for some sort of positive test result just so that I can finally know what the heck is going on.

On Thursday, the symptoms were getting ahead of me and I was feeling overwhelmed and utterly disappointed in my body. I know I’m supposed to deflect these feelings, but it feels wrong to have followed the life rules I’ve given by my family, by co-workers, society, myself and so on. I went to the gym almost everyday this summer, I eat lots of dark leafy greens, I worked hard at my job, I brush my teeth, I have no loans or debt, I take public transportation, I pet a lot of dogs,  and I try to be patient when people walk slowly in front of me. I kept thinking: why have I done so much to build a life for myself, only to be shoved into so much uncertainty around my health, my career, my finances, – really everything.

I have built a reliable life, and here my body is keeping me from walking down the path I’ve worked so hard to establish.

All of this was driving me crazy and I had to go home early on Thursday because I was pretty fried and in a bit of discomfort. I was sitting on my bedroom floor, trying to work, trying to understand the instructions a co-worker had sent over, when I started to cry.

That morning I had also told my boss what my final day at work will be and I was starting to panic that I won’t actually be able to follow through with that timeline. Out of fear of my upcoming financial situation, I’m going to try to hang on until the end of January. But between you and me – I’m not sure I’m going to make it to the end of December, especially if my cognitive issues keep going the way they are.

I was in the middle of a sob when I grabbed May Cause Miracles and re-read that day’s affirmation out loud: “Today I commit to miraculous shifts.”

In that moment I was not able to see the positivity of my situation, but I knew I could still practice mindfulness.

I did not have any sort of epiphany or feel the magical light of the Universe shine upon me in that moment. However, I did feel hope and deep love for the wellness journey I’ve dedicated myself to. Mere weeks ago, an episode like this would have resulted in a downward spiral of self-pity with a soundtrack of Sarah McLachlan and a video montage of the sad ASPCA ads. But with Gabby Bernstein’s lessons, my meditation practice, and the fact that I have experienced real shifts since starting this wellness journey, I knew it was important not to let myself fall down.

The sadness didn’t go away, but deep appreciation filled my heart and I knew in that moment that I will figure this all out. What I need is patience and to continue trusting the Universe and all the people and messages who/that show up in my life to help guide me through this phase of my life.

This week’s lessons in May Cause Miracles are around body image and self love. I don’t know if I’ve ever needed a lesson so badly. It’s as if Gabby wrote her book just for me, as if she knew I’d need these lessons at exactly this time in my life.

What do other folks, with or without chronic health conditions, do when they’re having a particularly difficult time? What do you do to brush off your frustrations and rebuilds your confidence and wellness? I’d love to know.

In the meantime, I’m going to watch The Holiday for the fourth time this weekend.

Wild, Wild Hair

It has been a few days since I’ve posted anything. This is partly because of my laziness, but primarily because I have been experiencing a wide range of emotions and have not been able to find the words to articulate those feelings. Between work, puzzling emotions, and the ongoing health symptoms, I haven’t quite found the right flow to juggle all these things.

But that’s okay, journeys are rarely perfectly sequenced.

Why then did I not post anything this weekend?

Because I got caught up in a two day, 60’s-70’s music solo dance party in my bedroom.

My God, Gary Puckett can sure sing.

I will be so bold as to say that blasting and dancing to Jay and the Americans, the Vogues, and The Guess Who was my spiritual high of last week.

I was raised on these bands and singers, but over the last decade I have tried to suppress the septuagenarian I internally am and try to listen to the tunes of my generation. Yet, this weekend as I was listening to Young the Giant (who are lovely), my phone shuffled on Cara Mia by Jay and the Americans. When the lyrics hit “Darling hear my prayer” my heart started fluttering and I suddenly found myself falling head first into the well of oldies music I’ve long kept archived. It felt like a personality revival.

How long has it been since I was absolutely silly and completely without some sort of filtration system to keep me in check? The answer is: WAY TOO LONG.

There has been so much intention these past two weeks as I’ve tried to secure wellness habits that raise my vibration, ground me in connection to the Universe, and lead me to sustainable health. I’ve consistently meditated, I’ve followed the daily guidance of May Cause Miracles, and I have tried to infuse positive affirmations into my daily experiences. Those practices have been and continue to be incredible, and I have experienced real transformation in just these few days.

But this weekend I remembered that being reactive, and allowing flexibility within all of that structure can have delightful results. Admittedly I wasn’t prepared to answer my co-workers when they asked me what I did this weekend. I immediately had a thought bubble with the image of me prancing (gracelessly) to Disco Inferno, but felt that may not be something they needed to know.

The practices taught in Gabby Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles have been creating subtle but substantive shifts in my energy, and this weekend I think I saw those shifts bubble up into a burst of unrestricted fun.

As each of us finds what health path works best for us, I think it is so important to allow these unexpected, but fun-filled moments into our lives. Even when they’re ridiculous. Especially when they’re ridiculous.

For years I’ve been living work day to work day, with my commute as my only substantial break. I’ve been dedicated to my job and being a good employee but have taken so little time to do anything that evokes the simple experience of having fun. When people ask me what my interests or hobbies are, my mind goes blank, and I can’t seem to remember the last time I pursued anything that would meet the hobby criteria. I’ve even felt validation in that realization because it has meant to me to that I was properly prioritizing my career and putting in the hard work I need to ensure a promising future. I figured that hobbies could be identified once I fill my savings account to a particular amount.

Right now, (in addition to wanting a full savings account) I want a full life brimming with joy and the things that make me happy.

This weekend, I felt boundless. Now I’m trying to think through what that feeling could look like if I carry it into the rest of my life. For eons, my self-imposed boundaries have been suppressive, suffocating, but also dependably safe. And to be honest, I am grateful for those internal boundaries I created, because they came out of the necessity of surviving a very challenging upbringing. However, I am no longer on the frontlines of those dysfunctions and I can be my full self. My full, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap-loving self.

Within all of this contemplation I thought of a nickname my dad used to call me. I had very long, curly to wavy hair, that was fairly untamable and always disheveled by my outdoor explorations of our wooded backyard. Dad called me the girl with the wild, wild hair.

That is who I want to be. The girl whose hair was so wild, it usually collected burs and other forest shrapnel. I was unrestrained, full of energy and creativity, seeking anything and everything that fed my imagination. I would dance around to these songs essentially no differently than how I did this weekend. As a child I had no idea how incredible it was to feel those things and express that fun so effortlessly.

I had not yet learned to hide those parts of me away.

Now this doesn’t mean I will stop brushing my hair or that I’ll start adorning it with twigs. It means that I am opening myself to being expressive, vulnerable, and that I will continue to seek the things that stir something so incredibly wonderful and simple.


Alarm Clock Blues: Going Back to Work

Staying on top of my new wellness habits are a bit harder to manage now that I’m back from Thanksgiving break. To the surprise of no one, it was far easier to build in time to meditate and practice wellness techniques when my schedule was wide open and not impacted by work.

This morning when my first alarm went off at 5:40 AM, I was not in a place to remember that I was on a wellness quest and was moderately distraught. Fortunately though, I didn’t have to get up until 7:00 AM. Slowly, and with lots of groaning, I turned on the low dimmer setting of my Himalayan Salt lamp to introduce a soft glow to help ease me into a state of awakeness.

I had put May Cause Miracles book on my bed last night, so when I rolled onto to it on my way to turn on the lamp, I was given the physical reminder that I needed to follow through with my morning meditation practice.

On a typical morning, I jump out of bed, rush to the mirror, brush my teeth, spackle on makeup, and “tame” my hair. The hair often takes awhile and therefore I usually end up rushing to figure out what to wear. I then run down stairs, grab the lunch I prepared (I often forget to prepare it), and run out my door to catch the metro.

Last night though, I picked out my outfit, actually dried my hair so that it wouldn’t look like a rat’s nest in the morning, and had lunch fully prepared and ready to go. I set the intention for my day before the day came and tried to help my future self out. This allowed me to go at a slower, more intentional pace and gave me the time to have a quick meditation. I also was able to read today’s May Cause Miracles lesson.

I know that I need to remember to stay true to this path even when my head is foggy with sleep. My health and future depend on my being consistent and conscientious. So even when I want to chuck my phone across the room when the alarm goes off, I will do my very best, to be gentle and kind with myself and provide the space for I need to start the day with positivity rather than hostility.

Trying my Best

Today I tried my best to witness any fears and anxieties without judgement and to be willing to see things through love rather than irritation.

It hasn’t been easy.

It wasn’t easy when someone cut me off as I tried to exit the train, it wasn’t easy when I found the communal work dishwasher hadn’t been turned on last week, and it wasn’t easy when I listed out all the tasks I need to accomplish to get through the next three days.

My inner crank wanted to jump out and announce my suffering, but I kept chanting in my head, “Love did not create this.” And while I witnessed my irritations, I also tried to step back and see the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is this: all of these glitches, snags, and irritants are temporary. I told my boss about two weeks ago that I’ll be resigning at the end of the year and, so really, all the things about this office atmosphere that usually suffocate me don’t have to, because it’s all almost over.

A Gentler Perspective

Now, I realize that for most people resigning is not a reasonable option. But I do believe these subtle steps I’m taking – both on my own through my new meditation practice and the lessons from May Cause Miracles – are making an important shift in my mental health. All I’m doing is visualizing a specific positive outcome and that is something anyone can do no matter what your circumstances are.

The other fact is, there were times when I deeply loved my job. I remember in the first few weeks I would practically skip out of the office, feeling full of light and happiness in the knowledge that I was doing work I was proud of. I’ve built amazing friendships with my colleagues, opened my eyes on issues I was ignorant of, and have expanded my capacity for empathy and understanding of people and the unique lives we all live.

There are going to be times in my life where I am not going to have an exit, where I will have to stick something out. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I will need to be able to reflect on what is good so that I can preserve that job, relationship, etc. Letting light in and keeping my sight on the things that love creates is what is going to keep me on track.

A Gift

While I tried to maintain the momentum of positive thinking today, I was quite exhausted when I left the office. I did my best to quell the ornery inner complaints about fatigue and aches, but I certainly wasn’t floating on cloud nine when I got home.

My efforts to quiet my snark was met with a lovely gift sitting in my entryway. Despite not expecting it to arrive so soon, my The Universe Has Your Back card deck by Gabby Bernstein and artist Micaela Ezra arrived today.

While I do not know Gabby personally, it kind of felt like she was sending me some personal love and kindness on a challenging day.

I ran up to my room, saged the deck, and asked what guidance I need before I end my day. The card I pulled was, “There is nothing sexier than my authentic truth.”

It is a lovely reminder that even on these days when it’s a little rainy, a little cold, a little uncomfortable, sticking to who I am and aiming to be my best self, is what I need be doing. I needed a little extra support today and having these words conclude my day has been the gentle validation I needed.

So when you’re having a not so sunshiny day – which we’re all going to have – remember that the glitches and snags do not come from love and steer yourself towards the things that do. You don’t have to overcorrect or put yourself down for not being zen and peppy 24/7. Do be open to the kind reminders the Universe has for us. Some of them are going to be really obvious, like a card deck from your favorite Spirit Junkie, and other days it’s going to be more subtle. But gifts are gifts, no matter their physical size.

It’s the impact that makes a difference.

The Literary Edit

Book Blog | Literature Review, Bookstore & Travel Guide For Book Lovers

Abby Wambach

A journey to health, balance, and spiritual wellbeing

Lost for Decades

Urban Exploring Abandoned Locations