“There is only one journey. Going inside yourself.” - Rainer Maria Rilke
I am a firm believer in people come into your life for a reason. I spent this past weekend with 17 remarkable women, each one of them beautiful souls who are now forever linked to my chain of existence. They were all ages, sizes, backgrounds and had different reasons for being there, but we were all there...together...sitting on the floor...surrounded by blue-green walls...clinging to hope.
The greatest lesson I have learned is that the key to recovery - from an eating disorder, from negative body image, from addiction, from abuse, from life - is hope. Hope is the gentle voice of kindness that sticks up for you when the negativity of your struggles are loud and clear. Hope is the motivator to hold on one more day and see what tomorrow brings. Hope frees us.
“Hope is that beautiful place between the way things were and the way things are yet to be.” - author unknown
Planning this event with my soul sister and best friend, Laura Granado of Abi Yoga, has been a whirlwind. It has been fun and exciting and busy and sometimes overwhelming. It has been exhilarating and anxiety ridden and ridiculously crazy and blissful. In the past, days filled with so much activity and emotion would have sent me straight into the comforting arms of my eating disorder. The eating disorder would have convinced me that self-sabotaging behaviors were the only way to deal with the stress. It would have said that a binge (or 2 or 3) would have numbed my feelings of being overwhelmed and helped me get through this. The difference these last few months has been the voice of hope. Hope telling me that the binge would only be temporary and I would feel worse than I do now if I went through with it. Hope saying, “why don’t we try this my way and see how it goes.” So instead of the frenzy of guilt and shame associated with the eating disorder behaviors, I had kindness and self-care and rest and priorities and love. And that is where I found the peace...right in the middle of the love. Hope equals love. Having hope means loving myself enough to believe in the possibility of healing, of a life without anguish, but of one filled with joy and contentment.
Hope is the answer.
"Those who have hope have everything." - Margaret Boyd
So as I sat through this weekend intensive, hungry for knowledge, a funny thing happened. I realized that not only did I already know a lot of what Chelsea was teaching us, but that these were the behaviors I had actively been using to get through the stress of the past few months. I had the opportunity to tell Chelsea this Saturday night, standing in my kitchen, her washing dishes and me drying. She smiled, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "You made it!" Oh, how I want to wrap that moment up in a box and tuck it away for safekeeping. People come into our lives for a reason.
Now I see that I spent last weekend with 18 remarkable women, because I was one of them. I am part of something bigger now. I am part of the solution and I am ready to spread hope like wildfire with every step I take. So, watch out world! I am getting ready to start using these newfound wings for some serious flying.
There are days that are pivotal. You wake up one person and go to bed another. You start the day doubting yourself and your decisions and fall asleep completely content with who you are. Yesterday was one of those days for me.
Several months ago, I bought a ticket to attend the 2014 Celebration of Life Gala and Auction hosted by The Kirsten Haglund Foundation. The event raises funds to provide eating disorder treatment to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Tonight they honored Jenni Schaefer with the 2014 Advocacy Award. Jenni is an amazing author, speaker and singer/songwriter who has helped countless people in recovery by sharing her story. I am one of those people. Her book Life Without Ed quite literally changed my life. As I read her words, I felt like someone understood me for the very first time. It was as if she had crawled inside my mind. When you are in recovery, there is no greater gift than that of understanding. So when I heard that Jenni would be so close, I had to seize the opportunity to be able to thank her in person. Yesterday afternoon, I hopped in the car and drove an hour and a half to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is where it gets very “your life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
So here I was alone in a hotel room in a town I’d never been in before getting ready for a gala where I would not know a soul. I had to pause to acknowledge what a big moment this was for me. Sure, I was nervous, but not anxiety ridden. This, in itself, was a huge mark of improvement. In the new Tenth Anniversary Edition of Life Without Ed, Jenni quotes Amelia Earhart in the afterword: “The best way to do it is to do it.” She goes on to explain that “sometimes, what we really need to do is let go, stop thinking so much, and take that step - right off the trapeze platform - into freedom.” I took a deep breath and walked out the door.
The event was wonderful. The stories of hope and recovery were uplifting and inspirational. Jenni’s words were so full of hope. As the evening came to a close, I found myself getting emotional. Back in my hotel room, I sat down to send my hubby an email about the night and the emotion hit me full force as I wrote:
I am just really proud of myself right now. I'm in tears because I am realizing how far I have come. I walked around that room tonight, not knowing a soul, and told people I was in recovery and talked very openly about it. I sat with two young girls and had a great time hearing their stories and their dreams of making a difference. Meeting Jenni was so wonderful. She knew exactly who I was and was so thankful that I had come and was genuinely happy to meet me. I mean, can you even believe that I (of my own free will) bought a ticket to this and came all this way and marched right into that room with confidence? This was just one of those days that I will never forget. I might stay up and do some writing. Kind of feel like I could conquer the world right now. And I couldn't do it without you by my side!
And so, here I sit. I am acutely aware of a shift happening inside me. I have jumped up another rung on the ladder of recovery and I can see the top...blue skies, sun shining, birds flying freely...I can feel my wings sprouting.
"Difficulties come when you don't pay attention to life's whispers. Life always whispers to you first, but if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you'll get a scream." - Oprah Winfrey
Simply going through the motions is not enough. A yoga class will not do the trick if you are constantly judging yourself in the mirror. Handing out great advice to others will not be enough if you are speaking to yourself in an entirely different tone. There are times when you can convince yourself that you are doing all of the right things because on the surface you are, but surface level is just that. It's what is going on in the deep that matters.
This week I have been going through the motions and forgot one of my biggest rules - listen to your body! My back was tender...I went a little slower at yoga. My back tightened up...I thought, "maybe it's more yoga that I need." My back really started hurting...I started modifying my yoga postures again. And then came the scream, after I had ignored every whisper. It took a doctor telling me that I needed to step away from yoga for me to listen.
I felt lost. I depend on yoga and the people in those classes. The idea of stepping away, even for a short time, makes me anxious and, quite frankly, sad. So I sat down this morning to regroup (which is what journaling does for me) and this is what I have decided: my body, and my heart, need me to learn how to do this on my own. This is not to say that I won't go running back to yoga and my friends on that mat as fast as I can, but it is to say that I will take this time to be still, to listen and to learn.
The path to recovery cannot be dependent upon one tool. It requires an entire toolbox full of options. Yoga and my friends there are my go-to tools, but I need to have other options when they are not available.
My auto-pilot mode, which I have mentioned before, wants me to take the time and fill it with to-do lists so at least I feel productive. For me, busyness breeds madness. When coupled with exhaustion, chaos ensues. So today I will rest. I will honor my body as the temple it is. I hope you will listen to your body today and give it exactly what it needs.
"Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it." - Eckhart Tolle