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 :)
The rising sun is elusive…ever moving…ever out of reach. It occurred to me this morning as I drove, searching for the perfect picture of the brilliant pink-orange skies, that this sunrise was not an image to capture, but a lesson to learn. The beauty of nature is God’s handwriting. His lesson plan surrounds us. All we have to do is open our eyes and read. The dormant plants of winter bursting into bloom illustrate hope and new beginnings. The wind across our faces teaches us to breathe deeply. And the beauty of the rising sun (and my search to capture the perfect image of it) is a gentle reminder that there are no finish lines in life. As I chased the sunrise across the Northern Ohio sky this morning, I stopped, I smiled, and I said to myself, “You will never find a perfect moment, you will find beauty surrounding you and that is perfection as God intended.” So don’t get so wrapped up in chasing the sun that you miss that beauty of the sunshine that surrounds you.
"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have cried twice in less than 24 hours...not sniffles and a few tears, but shoulders-shaking-can’t-catch-my-breath-snot-running-down-my-face crying. Be honest…when you read this, was your first reaction to feel sorry for me? To worry? Truth be told, at first I felt sorry for myself. I planned a full on pity party…invitation: ME! But this morning I was reminded of something that is so easily forgotten…I am not alone.
I received the following message from a dear friend referring to my National Eating Disorders Association Awareness Week campaign:
“All it takes is one person. One person to step out, be brave and share their story. The trickle effect is what happens when good people latch on to the stories. It only takes one person to change lives. That is what you are doing.”
This was my response, without thinking…just responding (through the second wave of tears in 24 hours):
“You don’t know how perfect the timing of this message is. It has been a crap week and I have been struggling and the voices in my head have been full of doubt, telling me I am a fraud for telling my story when I still struggle when times get tough. The first day I publicly talked about my story, my mission was to help just one person. I thought if I could do that, my suffering would have been for a reason. Every time I hear that I have helped someone, my heart is so full. And when my heart is full, there is no room for the hate. So thank you for telling me this. These words have truly shifted my day.”
These words, from this sweet friend and from my own unedited heart, stopped me in my tracks. Pity party cancelled.
I needed this moment of clarity to be reminded of the days when the tears didn't come because they were pushed down with food. I needed to be reminded that what I am doing truly matters, even if I still struggle when times get tough, because we all struggle…that’s what makes us human.
So, while I ask each of you to speak your truth, here is mine: Eating Disorder Recovery is a constant battle. It can be a full time job. The tricky part is that you don’t get a schedule ahead of time. There are days you wake up thinking it’s a Sunday and you have nothing to do but rest and realize with a jolt that you have to work all day…work on self-love and compassion and peace. There are moments when you catch your reflection in the mirror and smile and moments when an onslaught of negative thoughts fill your head. There are times you feel so alone and then there are days you feel your spirit lifted by true friends. There is good and there is bad, but every little bit of the struggle is a step in the right direction. The struggle is real and the struggle is hard, but the struggle will set you free.
So don't be afraid to struggle. Don't be afraid of bad days. And don't ever think that you are alone, because I am right here...speaking my truth, struggling all the while.
"If we didn't struggle, we wouldn't be alive. And I am convinced there is no greater feeling than being alive."
"The true beauty of a woman is reflected in her soul." - Audrey Hepburn
I am a girl who adores anything French - café au lait, the Eiffel Tower, Louis Vuitton. I am a lover of music and cry almost every time I hear it played live. I feel comfort in front of a roaring fire on a cold day and wrapped in my husband's arms as I drift off to sleep. I love to dance - at weddings, at parties, or alone in my kitchen. I appreciate good architecture and have a flair for interior design. My idea of heaven is puppies...piles and piles of puppies! My greatest fear is losing the ones I love. I am infatuated with Jane Austen, Julia Child and Adam Levine. I get tears in my eyes when I hear the National Anthem played. My favorite time of year is Autumn...sunny-blue-sky-crisp-apple-cider-football-Saturday days. I wholeheartedly believe that the sea has healing powers and the love of a child is God's greatest gift. I think judgement is cruel and unacceptable. I believe in love, true love. I believe in the power of choice and freedom. I pray for our soldiers. I believe in speaking my mind and paying compliments. I have faith that everything happens for a reason and I am exactly where I am meant to be.
My soul is made up of all of these things and so much more. Every little bit makes up who I am...every struggle...every victory...every tear...every smile...every bit of darkness and every shard of light. And the most beautiful part of this mixed up soul of mine is that the gift is not wrapped up perfectly and adorned with a bow. It lives in this body...this body that has endured so much...this body that has given so much...this body that can do more than I could have ever imagined...this body that soars, so that the soul housed within can do the same.
The picture above is me this morning, inverting with the aerial hammock for the first time. Trusting my best friend and trusting myself allowed me to overcome my fear...flip...and soar!
"Believe you can and you're halfway there." - Theodore Roosevelt
The words to this song struck me this morning as I listened to Christmas music while baking in my kitchen. I hope you find the beautiful message in this simple song and that your home is filled with peace, love and joy this Christmas.
“Christmas present is here today bringing joy that may last.”
While you unwrap gifts and gather around the table with your family, remain present amidst the chaos and recognize the joy that surrounds you.
“May your hearts be light.”
May the joy that you find lift your hearts and allow you to acknowledge that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
“In a year our troubles will be miles away.”
It is amazing what a year can bring. Be hopeful that next year the troubles that seem so heavy right now will have drifted away.
“Precious friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more.”
Friends are the family that we chose, count them as some of your greatest blessings.
“In a year we all will be together, if the fates allow.”
Everything happens for a reason and in perfect time. Have faith that the year ahead will bring exactly what is meant for you.
"So have yourself a merry little Christmas now!"
James Taylor's Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Tomorrow is my 42nd birthday. I say this not as a plea for well wishes, but to explain what birthdays mean to me. Every year on my birthday, I take time to reflect on the year I am leaving behind. Now that writing is such a big part of my life, it strikes me as funny that I have never written these thoughts down. So tonight I decided to do just that. Here are the lessons from my 41st year:
Tell Your Story
It is nearly impossible for me to believe that on my birthday last year I had only shared my story with family and close friends. The first landmark of my 41st year was the creation of oh, how she blooms! I began with the intention of helping one person and am blown away by the impact you can have by simply speaking your truth.
Stepping out of my comfort zone has never been my forté, but doing exactly that has made all the difference this year. The biggest out-of-my-comfort-zone moment for me was being photographed by a professional photographer on my yoga mat. It began as an exercise in building confidence and somehow landed me on the cover of an international yoga magazine! My willingness to step past my fears has opened doors that I never could have imagined.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
My father always taught me that the lessons are learned in the failures. This is so true. Every time things do not go as planned, we can learn how to do better the next time. Oscar Wilde said it beautifully when he wrote, "Experience is the name we give our mistakes."
Never Give Up
Failures do not define you. Get back up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward!
Always Have Hope
I am a pessimist. I have tried so hard to improve that fact, but even when the glass-half-empty side of me creeps in, I try to remember that there is always hope. My sister gave me a snow globe years ago engraved with the quote, “Those who have hope have everything.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Holding on to anger, bitterness and regret hurts no one but yourself. Let it all go. Drop it in the ocean and let the waves carry your troubles away.
There is no such thing as control! There will always be a sick child...a red light...the slow checkout line at the grocery store. The secret is finding the beauty in the chaos.
Family Always Comes First
Sometimes doing what is best for your family is not selfish, it is right. Family is always worth fighting for.
Friends are Everything
True friendship is a gift like no other. Real friends who tell you when you have food in your teeth or call you beautiful when you are a sweaty mess because they see the real beauty inside are precious.
When my anxiety is high, yoga calms me. When I am sad, yoga makes me happy. When I am scared, yoga holds me. Yoga always leaves me feeling better than when I started and that, my friends, is something you can’t say for a lot of things!
God is Good
I don’t talk a lot about religion. I have always believed that religion, money and politics are not dinner table conversation. As a highly sensitive person, I have a lot of deep thoughts about life and death and religion. What I will say is this: faith has brought me through this year...faith that recovery is possible, faith that letting go of controlling everything will still lead me down the right path and faith that my spirituality, even though it may differ from others, is my own and it serves me well.
My self-doubt led me to put a cap on a lot of dreams or never pursue them at all. Boy has that changed! My best friend and I have launched Soul Bliss and are teaching workshops and planning our second yoga retreat in Mexico! And just when I thought I couldn’t dream any bigger…I have something else up my sleeve ;)
So there it is. My cup runneth over. My heart is full. My soul is happy.
Photo Credit to Susan Schetter
I never intended to appear in three magazines in the past six months. In fact, I never intended to share my story of recovery from Binge Eating Disorder and Anxiety. But that's the funny thing about life...what happens next is not always what we intended. I sat at my computer less than a year ago, shaking as I hit the "publish" button for the oh, how she blooms! website. I immediately regretted it. I have never thought of myself as brave. All I knew is that my heart kept telling me that all of my struggles would be worth it if I could use what I had learned to help another. That was my goal. I will never forget the first person who told me that one of my posts led to someone she loved getting help for her eating disorder. I cried tears of relief and of empathy for that sweet girl. And then there was another story...another Facebook post...another new follower on Twitter and Pinterest. People were relating to my words...my story mattered.
When OM Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine contacted me about using one of my photos for the cover of their November issue, I honestly didn't believe anything would ever come of it. I saw the cover on Facebook several weeks ago, but not until it dropped into my mailbox yesterday did the magnitude of this accomplishment hit me. It took my best friend pointing out that I had been in three magazines in the last six months for me to even realized that had happened! I can barely wrap my mind around it. I am in awe of myself and that is a gift that is difficult to put into words.
I am grateful that my best friend and yoga teacher pushed me in my practice and believed in me all along. I am grateful that a great friend and amazing photographer made me feel so comfortable being photographed. I am grateful that my husband and son are my biggest fans. I am grateful for my therapist who guided me through the darkest times. I am grateful to my dearest friends who have supported me and loved me down this path. I am grateful to my family for witnessing this transformation. But most of all, I am grateful that I found the courage to hit the "publish" button and take this leap of faith. I am proud of what I have done and the encouragement others have drawn from my words. I am grateful for so many things, but today I will take time to be grateful for me.
Pictured Above from back to front: OM Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine, Mantra Yoga + Health, and Yoga Journal España
"The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea." - Isak Dinesen
Life is full of moments that capture you completely…weddings, births, deaths...but there are also moments that capture you just as completely that may go unnoticed by those around you. They are moments when you feel whole, at peace, content, connected and full of love. They can happen when hugging a friend, when looking at a child, when sitting on your mat. They can happen with the sea on one side and the jungle on the other, waves crashing, birds chirping, sun shining. They can happen as you inhale and exhale and move with your breath. They can happen as you sit quietly, meditating on the wonder of your journey - the journey that has ultimately led you to this magical place, both physically and metaphorically. This journey that started two years ago when you reached deep within and found the last bit of strength you had and offered it to yourself as a gift…the gift of peeling back the layers that the world had built around you…the gift of tears and pain and self-discovery…the gift of an open heart and an open mind…the gift of love and acceptance and healing. These moments can take you off guard and sweep you off your feet. They can be all encompassing. These moments can take place sitting on a step with a friend sharing secrets and a view of bouganvelia. They can happen swaying in a hammock watching the setting sun or whispering late at night with your roommate who has changed your life by bringing you to this spot on the map. You can be giggling with friends while covering yourself in Mayan clay and then sitting in the sun in silence feeling their presence in your soul. These moments can be in a candlelit room awaiting the sunrise and they can make you feel like the journey has all been leading you to this exact moment, the moment when you are finally able to utter the words I am recovered.
The photo above was taken in the morning yoga room at Amansala Resort in Tulum, Mexico during the Abi Yoga Retreat in October 2014. The image has not been photoshopped. This is not what my naked eye saw, but what was captured on film...another magical moment.