TRIGGER WARNING: ARTICLE DEPICTS EATING DISORDER BEHAVIOR
Dear Girl in the Bathroom Stall Beside Me,
It took me a minute to figure out what was going on. I heard the coughing when I came in, then met you at the sink as you wiped your tears and blew your nose. I didn't want to assume I knew your pain, but I saw it in your eyes reflecting in the mirror. And as quickly as I put the puzzle pieces together, you had taken a deep breath and walked out the door.
I washed my hands as my heart sank and walked out to see you leaving the restaurant. I hesitated just long enough to miss you. Did I fail you? Am I the only person who knows your secret? Was there anything I could have said in that moment that would have helped you?
So what I want to say now, to you and anyone else who will listen, is this:
You are chaos and heartache and stormy seas.
You are light and love and stardust.
You are what this world needs more of.
You are raw, honest, gut-wrenching emotion.
You are laughter and effervescence.
You are remarkable and needed and loved and worthy of taking up space.
You are whole, in this moment, exactly as you are.
How do I know this? Because in that reflection of your eyes I could see my own - my eyes from not too long ago, black with the darkness within. I know because you are me and I am you. And should I ever have the chance to meet you again, I would wrap you in my arms and whisper in your ear:
You are enough.
You are enough.
You are enough.
And so am I.
Until then, I am sending love your way,
I am a person who loves quotes. I love it when someone else's words seem as if they have come from my own heart. There is a sense of connectedness with the author that takes place...a sense of belonging, of being understood. And isn't that what we all want? To be heard and have someone respond, "Me too!"
"Bloom where you are planted." These words may mean one thing to you and another to the person across the room, but to me these words are a reminder to just be me...in this moment...exactly as I am.
I spent a lot of time and energy trying to force myself into the rigid mold of perfectionism. Recovery from my eating disorder taught me that perfectionism is a cage and what I really needed was to fly freely. So many things I learned in recovery are worth repeating. They are life lessons that we all need to be aware of, but most importantly, need to give ourselves permission to follow. As women, we find ourselves pulled into chaos way too often. Whether it is the unrealistic to-do list or the drama of our child's playdate or the anxiety we have over work or an upcoming event, we allow ourselves to be drawn into a place of self doubt and, quite frankly, self-inflicted torture. In this frantic world we live in, it is crucial that we pause and take time to reevaluate what is truly important.
When I started this blog over five years ago, my goal was simple. I wanted to see if I could help just one person struggling with an eating disorder. I thought that if I could, my eating disorder would have served a greater purpose. I have grown and changed so much over these five years and now my mission has shifted too. I will always hold a special place in my heart for those struggling with food and body image issues, but my focus now is on helping all women come home to themselves. I want women to know and truly believe that they can not only be happy in their own skin, but that they can find calm amidst the chaos. Living authentically is the key. Yoga and meditation are the path.
My yoga classes have had a life of their own. Fresh out of yoga teacher training, I was on a mission to prove that I could do it all (perfectionism had tried to rear its ugly head!). Eventually I learned to teach what I crave and that has made all the difference. Yoga and meditation are therapy for me. So that is what I teach. I teach therapeutic yoga and meditation for healing of the mind, body and spirit. I wholeheartedly believe that yoga is the path to finding peace within ourselves. My goal is to provide my students space to bloom in my classes. My monthly Art of Yoga classes at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts have evolved too. What started as an exploration of the concept of yoga as an art form, has led to a class that I hold near and dear to my heart. The Art of Yoga is the art of coming home to yourself...the art of healing mind, body and spirit. The art of yoga is the art of living.
Come explore The Art of Yoga with me on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 from 10am to 11:30am at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts in the Fisher/Wall Art Gallery. We will practice gentle and restorative yoga, meditate and end class with a deep relaxation.
To my past, current and future students,
I hope you to learn to live with ease.
I hope you give yourself some grace.
I hope you connect to your breath.
I hope you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be.
I hope you heal your hurting heart.
I hope you seek joy.
I hope you speak your truth.
I hope you nourish your body.
I hope you find stillness.
I hope you come home to yourself.
I hope you bloom where you are planted.
love and light,
Somewhere along the way I lost myself. Through glasses tainted with the judgements of those around me, I viewed life as I thought I should rather than how it came naturally to me. I lived my life in shackles, completely unaware that I was the one who held the key.
It is nearly impossible to explain what living with an eating disorder feels like to someone who hasn’t lived it themselves, but I will do my best to try.
I have lived a large portion of my life underwater. It is the easiest way for me to describe existing as a highly sensitive person with an eating disorder and anxiety. I became so consumed with the banter inside my head that those internal conversations caused me to miss the real life that was happening right in front of me. Underwater, you can hear the voices, but what they are saying remains unclear.
The words were tangled up inside of me. There was a blur that made it impossible to recognize where one thought ended and the other began; this kind of confusion is headache inducing. The lump in my throat seemed to be connected to my clarity…as long as the tears didn’t release, neither did the fears. Underwater, the anger builds, the resentment multiplies and the tricks the mind plays on itself become increasingly more clever. I was drowning in a stream of consciousness.
Underwater, thoughts become hazy as your focus becomes sharp upon the fact that you cannot breathe. All you can think of is an escape. You would do almost anything to avoid this panic. Everything spins out of control.
Panic only exacerbates the situation…stirring up silt and making it even harder to tell up from down. The best course of action is to let go and allow the sea to take over…floating you to the surface. But in the midst of such panic, fear grips you. You are so scared that you will never find air, that you push yourself deeper. You selfishly believe that you are the one controlling the outcome.
July 26, 2012
I am sitting in an old wing chair in a warm room, curtains drawn for privacy and to keep the heat at bay. My heart is beating so nervously that I am certain the pulsing of my temples must be visible. Am I getting enough oxygen? Am I breathing? The edges of my vision start to blur. I think I’m going to faint. How long have I been in here? Surely it’s been an hour by now. Just a little while longer and this will all be over…
The woman sitting across from me is a matter-of-fact, no-nonsense therapist that I found online. Did I hear her correctly? Did she just say I have an eating disorder? Binge Eating Disorder? Generalized Anxiety Disorder? These are medical terms…actual diagnoses for someone who is really sick. She must not know what she is talking about. I just need someone to tell me what to do…teach me how to control myself. If she would just give me a plan to follow, I can knock this off my list of things to do and move on.
She seems nice though…and genuinely concerned for my wellbeing. She isn’t judging me and this is the first person I have been completely honest with about my eating habits and thoughts about my body. She acted like she wasn’t surprised when I told her everything. Am I not the only person who acts like this? Is she just being nice or does she really understand me?
She wants me to come back every week. Take it step by step. I wonder when I will be done. I need an end date - a graduation from all of this. It doesn’t sound pretty. She said something about blind weigh-ins and getting rid of my scale at home and journaling. Whatever.
She wants me to track my food, so I will be the perfect patient and eat exactly what I know I “should” eat for the next week. I promised to be 100% honest with her so no drive-thrus anytime soon. I need to nail this.
Recovery begins with the first gasp of fresh air. When you decide you are worth saving. When you stop trying to control and start trusting. As you catch your breath, your vision clears and you begin to see your true self. The you that may have remained hidden for all of your life, the you that you were meant to be and perhaps have never met before.
An eating disorder does so many things to a soul, but the greatest harm it causes is its ability to make you doubt yourself at every turn. The cruelest joke of all is that the eating disorder makes you doubt your recovery. Even as you bravely tread water, that sneaky ED slithers in and plants seeds of doubt that cause you to question your own ability to swim.
It was not until recently that I began to see clearly without my protective goggles on. Recovery does not mean smooth sailing and sunny skies every day. Recovery means floating along on a calm day and being able to traverse the stormy seas just as easily.
The greatest lesson I have learned is that I have nothing to prove. I have spent my whole life trying to prove I am enough. I was the perfect child, the perfect student, the perfect friend and wife and mom. I worked for companies I didn't believe in and followed diets I knew wouldn’t work. I wanted to be smart enough, rich enough, skinny enough. But what I now know that I really wanted was to be loved. Not to be doted upon or put on a pedestal, but to be loved…flaws and all. To be loved for just being me.
July 26, 2017
I am sitting at my computer breathing deeply and noticing all the beauty around me. My dog is asleep at my feet, my son practicing his trumpet in the next room. The sun is shining on my dining room floor at the perfect angle to highlight the gorgeous color of the wood.
I am at ease. I am in a place in space and time that I never truly believed in five years ago. After living the majority of my life in fear (of food, of exercise, of what people thought of me, of life), I had come to believe that this was just the way it would be for me. I did not believe that peace existed and freedom from food and body image issues was an attainable goal.
5 years ago today, I sat slumped in a chair in my therapist's office trying not to take up space, panicked by the reality of my eating disorder and certain I would fail at recovery. It has been a difficult road with many twists and turns along the way, but every moment has led me to now. And I’ll tell you a secret…”now” is where peace lives.
Today I am recovered and living my life to its fullest. So if today is your Day 1 and you don't think you can beat this, listen to me when I tell you...the voice saying "you can't" isn't actually your voice at all...that's ED. And he's a liar!
The work you think you need to do to “fix” the problem of your eating disorder will not be anything like you think it will be. There is no problem to be fixed. There is only the real you to be discovered. And I promise you…she is extraordinary.
Today, when I look in the mirror, I see the girl within. I see the real me. I don’t see gray hairs or laugh lines or cheeks fuller than they used to be. To me, this is an accomplishment worth its weight in gold. I spent so many years studying the flaws in my reflection…picking myself apart…bullying the one person who deserved my love more than anyone.
It turns out that the matter-of-fact, no-nonsense therapist that I found online really does know what she is talking about. In fact, she is one of the kindest, gentlest souls I have ever known. We have been through so much together these five years. She knows me inside and out. It wasn’t long ago that I sat in her office and made the realization that everyone that I truly care about does love me for who I am and she asked a simple question…”when are you going to join them at the table?”
So here I sit, at this small but cozy table so full of love and belonging. This is what recovery looks like…to me. But what is most important is what recovery feels like…it feels like coming home to a place you have never known but have always been homesick for…it feels like finally becoming me.
My Speech from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk
Hosted by the Tri-State Eating Disorder Resource Team
September 10, 2016
Glenwood Gardens, Cincinnati
Transcript of My Speech
Good morning! My name is Britt Melton and I am recovered from Binge Eating Disorder. Thank you so much for coming out this morning to walk. Whether you walk in memory of a loved one or in honor of a friend, your being here is important. Because it means that there is hope and hope is what I really want to talk to you about today.
In reflecting on my recovery, I determined that hope for me is a puzzle made up of five pieces, the first of which is…
A little over four years ago, I had moved back to Ohio with my husband and young son. We bought a beautiful house, I was driving a brand new car, my son was in private school and my husband had an amazing new job. I sat in this beautiful house and I cried. I cried because it was six months until my 40th birthday and I couldn’t bare the thought of one more diet. I cried because my mind and my heart raced and I didn’t think either would ever slow down. But mostly, I cried because I knew I was using food as a drug to get me through my seemingly perfect life and I didn’t know how to stop.
On July 20, 2012, I did the bravest thing I have ever done…I walked into my therapist’s office for the first time.
If you are new to recovery, I won’t stand here and tell you that it will be easy, because it won’t. Recovery is the curviest, bumpiest, detour laden road you will ever travel. There will be days when you are driving along with the top down, radio blasting, smile on your face and a road block will come out of nowhere. There will be days you swear the transmission is stuck in reverse and your foot is duct taped to the gas! But then one day, you will come around a curve and find a scenic overlook of a distant place where hope lives and you will be reminded that the good outweighs the bad and that this is a fight worth fighting, that you are worth fighting for. So you will pull back onto the road, a little more cautiously this time, and you will keep driving.
About 6 months into my recovery I walked into my first yoga class. Two things happened that day: first, I found what my body had been longing for on my mat. I finally understood what my therapist meant by “movement for the joy of movement.” On my mat, I can forget about the world around me and truly connect mind, body and soul. The second thing I found, was my people. Through yoga, I found like-minded, genuine women all on similar searches for a little peace in their lives. This brings me to my second puzzle piece…FIND YOUR TRIBE! Seek out those who lift you up, who light you up, who fill you with love. This life is too short to waste on anything less. My tribe is made up of these women, of my amazing husband and my son, my therapist who I count as one of the greatest blessings in my life and all the people who inspire me - the family, friends, authors, speakers, do-gooders, and recovery workers.
18 months into recovery, I sat in front of my computer scared to death to hit the publish button on a blog telling my story to the world. On January 1, 2014, I started Oh, How She Blooms and announced my eating disorder to the universe…or at least anyone with an internet connection and a desire to read a girl’s blog about her eating disorder. I kept telling myself that if i could just help one person to not feel alone in their struggle, than my eating disorder would have served a higher purpose. By starting my blog, I discovered the third piece of the puzzle…SPEAK YOUR TRUTH!
My truth may sound similar to yours, it may not. But the beauty of your truth is that it is yours and yours alone. So when you strive to look like the girl on the magazine cover or act like a perfect child, you will always fail, because there is no such thing as perfection. And by trying to be perfect, you are denying the world the gift of you.
Part of discovering your true authentic self is remembering, or maybe figuring out for the very first time, what really makes you happy. The fourth puzzle piece is SEEK JOY! Take time to notice what makes your heart sing. For me it is yoga, dance, music, photography, traveling, and the ocean.
This brings me to the final piece of the recovery puzzle which is to simply SHOW UP! The brilliant author Brené Brown is part of my tribe, whether she wants to be or not! Her books are extraordinary. In her book, Daring Greatly, she includes this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So remember that by showing up today, you are daring greatly. It does not matter how much victory or how much loss is in your life right now. The only thing that matters is that you are in the arena. Hope lives in the arena. And those who have hope, have everything.
My heart and the sea seem to somehow be connected. I think one reason I love to travel is that the wanderlust in my soul craves finding a spot on the map that feels like coming home.
This morning I sat in a beach chair staring at the ocean and said to my husband and son, "I am certain that when I die, Heaven will be me sitting in a beach chair on this beach staring at this ocean." It is, quite simply, my favorite place on earth.
The mountains of Virginia still make my heart skip a beat and will always be my original home. But even as I grew up there, trips to the beaches of North Carolina were frequent. It is where we vacationed as a family and where I learned that the sea heals my soul.
Two years ago, I traveled to Tulum, Mexico for the first time. Although I had never been there before, it was as if I had been homesick for this place my whole life. I remember telling my best friend that it was a feeling that was hard to explain, but it felt like coming home.
To me, nature is God's church. I have never felt as spiritually connected in a sanctuary as I do staring at vast open water. It's as if I settle into myself in a way that quiets me to the bone. In this silence, I feel connected. I feel most like me. I can truly let the sea carry my troubles away.
Last weekend I heard a master yogi speak. He had so much wisdom, but one closing remark he made has been looping in my mind like a song on repeat:
"If you give your burdens to God, God will take them away. If you give your burdens to Guru, Guru will take them away. But the point is, you must give your burdens away!" - Yogi Amrit Desai
So whether it is the sea, the mountains, the altar or the yoga mat, find the place where you come home to yourself. Settle into the stillness and give your burdens away!
It isn’t even December yet and the talk of holiday weight gain and New Year’s resolutions to lose those extra pounds has already begun. It is my least favorite part of the holiday season. Social media, advertisers and brainwashed friends alike spread the message of guilt and fear and self loathing like it is completely normal to belittle ourselves and proclaim out loud that we are not enough. There are some people who simply get an eye roll from me when I hear a passing remark, but there are others who bring me to tears. I spent so many years feeling like the holidays were merely an excuse to be off my diet until January 1st. I frantically ate myself through family get togethers, all the while worried sick about what it would take to undo it all in the New Year. It is a horrible way to live. Even for those without eating disorders, disordered eating or eating with fear is no way to celebrate what you are thankful for and what you wish for the upcoming year.
I have a crazy idea. You will think I have completely lost my mind, but please read on just a little further.
What if we loved ourselves enough to nourish our bodies as well as our minds and our spirits.
What if we had that piece of pie and were fully present while we savored each bite and soaked in the giggles in the background.
What if we listened to what the people around us were saying rather than checking our FitBit.
What if we went for a walk because the sun was shining and there was someone whose hand we were longing to hold and not because we felt like we had to work off that meal.
What if we marked an hour each day on our calendar to practice self care.
What if we began forming habits that we could carry throughout our lives rather than looking for the shortcut to get us through the next six weeks.
What if we looked in the mirror and smiled at the person looking back at us.
What if we were kind to ourselves and said sweet things and cherished every moment with loved ones.
What if we stopped listening to the ads and the messages and started realizing that we are not imperfect beings who need to be fixed, but that we are perfect because of our imperfections!
What if we spoke our truth and applauded others for doing the same.
What if you were you and I was me and that was what was meant to be.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
The words “Dream Big” serve as the dedication to her children in my sister’s book. I don’t know how many times I have told her what an inspiration she is. I have told her what a wonderful message it is for her children and all of the other young people who will read her words, but, until now, I didn't realize that she was also inspiring me.
I have never been a dreamer. I am a planner, an organizer, a realist. I have always had a sensible goal in mind. In Jenni Schaefer’s book Life Without Ed, she asks the following question: “What is your vision of freedom from Ed [eating disorder]?” In July of 2013, I couldn’t answer this question. The page in the book remains blank even today. I realistically knew that freedom from my eating disorder would free up my life and leave me with time to follow my dreams, but there was a problem...I had no idea what my dreams were.
I thought of the wise question “Where does your mind go when it wanders?” As I child, it was always dance. I had dreamt of being a dancer. I had choreographed every song that played on the radio and rehearsed for countless hours in my childhood bedroom. But for a long time, my mind has only wandered to a place of self-doubt and it is hard for any dreams to grow in a dark place like that.
When I couldn’t answer the big question of what my life would be like after recovery, I started with a small step I could focus on. I wanted to help one person. I thought if I could help one person struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues that my recovery would have a sense of greater meaning. This gave me the inspiration to organize an event in our small town. While preparing for the event, I decided to launch my blog and website (www.ohhowsheblooms.com). I quickly realized that I had already helped more than one person. So the next logical question was...what now? Again, I had no answer...no dream.
In February of 2014, I had a conversation about yoga teacher training with my yoga teacher and dear friend, Laura of Abi Yoga. I hesitantly said that maybe it would be a cool thing to accomplish one day...a dream. She told me how she believed in me and knew it was something I could accomplish. My eyes filled with tears and I remember saying, “I don’t think I have ever let myself dream that big.” What was holding me back? I had let my old thought patterns convince me that this wasn’t even a possibility for me. I had allowed the eating disorder to squash yet another dream and I hadn’t even seen it happening.
As I thought all of this over, this quote by Marianne Williamson came to mind: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It is one of my favorite and least favorite quotes at the same time. Its raw truth terrifies me because it speaks directly to me. Fear of failure has always held me back. I decided it was time for my dreams to cast a shadow over my fears and I began researching yoga teacher training programs.
Yesterday, I graduated from Bhumi's Yoga and today I can officially call myself a 200 hour registered yoga teacher. My head is still spinning from the weekend, but the thought that keeps replaying over and over in my mind is "YOU did this!" Yoga teacher training is the first thing I have ever done solely because I wanted to do it. No one suggested it to me. No one hinted that I should give it a try. It was a calling from my soul. And yesterday, as I sat meditating, gazing into my own eyes in a mirror perched in front of me, I couldn't help but smile.
So my dream now is this: to be powerful beyond measure! Not in a greedy-power-kind-of-way, but in a saving-myself-while-saving-others-kind-of-way. If I ask myself where my mind goes when it wanders now, I see yoga and smiling faces and hugs and healing. And, for the first time in my life, I believe that these dreams will all come true.
Me, after graduation yesterday...you can't fake a smile like that!
"I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen." - Winnie the Pooh
It is hard to put into words what my best friend Laura has meant to me. The moving van has arrived and tomorrow she will set off on a new adventure. I could write a novel describing the impact her presence has had on my life. So to spare you all that diatribe, I have condensed her gifts into a list of the top ten.
Sweet friend, the words "thank you" will never be enough.
As my teacher, she has taught me the peace you can find through yoga, the connection to your body, the calming of your mind and the opening of your heart. She has opened an entire new world to me that begins on my mat.
As my friend, she has introduced me to the community of yoga and the joy to be found living to your fullest among these people. These spirits lift you up, free of judgment. They become your tribe and, for that, you are grateful.
There are periods of my life where this is little photographic evidence that I existed. I avoided pictures at all costs. So for me to be photographed in yoga clothes with no makeup on and sweaty hair AND to see myself as beautiful...well that is no small feat.
If years ago a fortune teller had told me I would travel to the jungles of Mexico for a yoga retreat on the beach with my Venezuelan best friend when I was 42, I would have laughed in her face and demanded to have my money returned. But last year, that very thing happened and it was an adventure that forever changed my life.
6. Culinary Culture
And by culture, I mean Spanish Wine and Tequila!
5. Arts Appreciation
My dear friend Connie and I had the pleasure of taking Laura to her first concert right before she gained her American citizenship. We felt it was a rite of passage. We suffered through the view.
4. Soul Bliss
Without Laura, Soul Bliss would have never been born. Upon returning from our retreat last year, our wheels started turning and Soul Bliss was the result of many brainstorming sessions. We both feel called to teach others the same joy we feel through yoga.
3. Yoga Teacher Training
Laura gave me the strength to become a yoga teacher myself. She has encouraged me to attend workshops with her and expand my knowledge of yoga. This is a picture of us recently attending the Jason Crandell Workshop in Columbus. I know our days of sweating on our mats side by side have only just begun.
A best friend for my son, a Goddaughter, and a Soul Sister. There is really just nothing else to say.
Of all of these gifts and the many others my best friend has given to me, the greatest is an unconditional love that allows me to be myself fully...flaws and all. She is quiet when I need to vent and ready to give advice when I need guidance. She understands my meaning without me uttering a word. She has my trust, she has my back, she has my heart and I love her very, very much.
"Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends." - Hafiz
Today I taught my first yoga class. For the first few moments, my voice was shaky and my mind unsettled. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that doubting my own ability would get me nowhere. The key was to approach the teaching from a place of love...love for the friends who were trusting me to teach them and, most importantly, love for myself. So I pushed the doubt aside and decided to believe in me.
On more than one occasion, my therapist has referenced this quote from Anne Lamott: "My mind is like a bad neighborhood...I try not to go there alone." People who suffer from anxiety need to get out of their heads. We need to get out of our own way. This is one of many things I have learned about myself in therapy. When looking back at my journals, I see entry upon entry describing my eating disorder and anxiety as fog...murk...grime. Today, as I began to stroll down the dark and scary streets in between my ears, I stopped. I stopped and turned toward the light.
You see, it is bright and sunny where belief lives. Self compassion makes the flowers grow and burst into bloom. Patience drifts by on a breeze bringing a smile to your face and courage puts a skip in your step. My neighborhood, once abandoned buildings and low grey clouds, is mine to refurbish however I decide. And I choose brightly painted cottages, green grass under a shady tree and hummingbirds flying by. I choose sunshine. I choose love.
As we finished the class, with tears in our eyes, my dear friends told me that the thing they loved most was that they could feel that the class came from my heart. For a girl who spent most of her life hiding in that stormy, cold neighborhood in her mind, there was no better compliment. I showed up. The real me shined her light. And I have never been so happy.
Victory to the light.
"There's nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons." - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The sun has barely risen and I'm in the air somewhere between North Carolina and Michigan. I am exhausted and my soul is full.
Twenty-four years ago I set off for college, looking for adventure and freedom and fun. I found all of that during my four years (and I learned a little along the way too). I made a lot of friends, but there is a group of women who have stuck by me...and I have stuck by them right back. We have seen marriages and divorces, witnessed births and deaths. We have lived close and thousands of miles apart. We have talked frequently and gone for months without a word. We have cried and smiled and argued and rolled eyes. And we have laughed...laughed so hard that the tears streamed down our cheeks...laughed into snorts and gasps of air...laughed holding onto to the nearest piece of furniture to steady our stance. We have laughed when something was funny and laughed when it was not appropriate at all to laugh. Some of us laugh when we are nervous and some of us laugh for no reason at all. We laugh with few words spoken, because we know each others' looks and exactly what they mean, we know the memories and all the stories and what the other is thinking (sometimes before they do). We laugh because we are just so happy to be with each other that there is nothing else to do but feel the joy and let it pour out of our giggles. We laugh because we love each other and a love like that feeds your soul. No matter what we have stepped away from in our lives, when we come together we always leave with a sense of peace in our hearts and a knowing that, through it all, we will stick by each other over and over again.
So when we came together this weekend to celebrate our 20th college reunion, it was not about the place or the degrees we had received, it was about the laughter. It was about the hugs I got last night that filled my eyes with tears as they whispered in my ear that they loved me and were inspired by me. I hope when I said thank you that they knew that they are at the core of what inspires me. I hope each laugh screamed loud and clear "You are amazing women and you are perfect just as you are!" I hope every hand held signaled the respect and admiration I have for the human beings that they are. I hope as we celebrated the 20 years that have passed since we graduated, they knew I was celebrating the 24 years I have been blessed to have them in my life.
As I checked out of the hotel this morning in the darkness and quiet before dawn, the woman at the front desk smiled at me and said "I have been watching your group all weekend and could just feel how happy you were to be together. It was so contagious it made me reach out to my girlfriends and tell them how much I appreciate our friendship." And my soul filled up a little bit more. Love so abundant that it burst out of our own little bubble and spread into the lives of those around us! So with eyes hardly able to stay open from the lack of sleep, I can't stop smiling...although my cheeks still hurt a little from all the laughter :)