The warming sun will come

Spring has sprung y’all. It seems like it happened over night. But I know it’s been months in the making. Everything lost its vibrancy after one last spectacular burst of color in the fall. The heaviness of what was no longer needed was set aside to give life to the next cycle. The dropped leaves become homes for burrowing bees and turn to sustaining food for the trees and plants. The last of the seeds fall from their mother’s arms. Under the heavy weight of snow, the seed babies retreat into the earth and find refuge in the darkness. The snow is an incubator of sorts, providing protection and a sense of safety in the darkness, creating the perfect environment for the bare seeds to weather the season. Then, the snow melts. The sun lolls in the sky for a little longer every day. The warmth eventually makes its way into the earth, gently calling the seeds to sprout and the roots back to action. The melting snow provides a deeply nourishing and invigorating drink for the reawakened plants. They remember what to do. Their time spent in dormancy gave them the much needed break to recoup, reassess, restore, and renew. They come back with as much vigor and purpose as ever before. Bigger and stronger, yet without force. In perfect alignment with Big Mama’s directions.

I see my life reflected in nature and I gleam with such delight! Watching nature reminds me I’m not alone and that I’m right on time. I have the eternal support of Mother Nature. We evolved from millions of years of living in harmony with her. We were never meant to be DOING all the time, year round. I hear people say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’ve just been such a hermit this winter.” And I want to hug them, to take them by the hand and show them what the trees and plants and animals are doing. We aren’t separate from nature. Give yourself grace when you enter the darkness. You’re shedding the dead weight, dropping seeds to be nourished by the release of what no longer serves. Give yourself time and space to draw in, to access your corest of cores, and be with that inner guidance. You’ll come out the other side with more certainty in who you are and you’ll be able to trust your strength, your purpose, yourself! Without dark, there can be no light. The warming sun will come, honey. I promise.

I went for a swim

Sitting on a beach in Hawaii, soda water and lime by my side, I was entranced by the lulling of the ocean waves, the rustling of the palm trees overhead, the soft murmuring of people around me. I hadn’t noticed the ocean breeze until there was a pause, and the noise level seemed to drop 20 decibels. Usually, the ocean breeze is a respite from the mugginess and it’s something to be grateful for while near a tropical ocean. However, the weather was so perfect this day, high 70s, blue skies, low humidity, that the wind made it almost nippy. During the pause of the constant breeze, a subtle warmth uncoiled in my belly and spread through my body. It was a similar sensation I would get while drinking whiskey. It was a feeling I craved and I chased it with every consecutive drink. I had never experienced it outside of drinking though. For a split second, I thought maybe my soda water and lime actually had vodka in it. It didn’t. But when you’re newly sober, sometimes you have weird flashbacks and dreams that make you think you’re back to drinking. Anyway, I imagined this uncoiling warmth as my true self stretching out and taking up the space she was meant to occupy. After being shoved into a tiny box and locked away for years, she finally had room and permission to fully own this earth body. To warm all the parts that had been left out in the cold because there wasn’t enough room for all of me. And to graciously welcome all those parts with loving tenderness, to remind them they belong here exactly as they are, exactly as I am.

I cried on the beach that day. We were leaving the next day and I wasn’t ready. I felt like I had just started this process of getting to know myself. It was the first time since I was 13 that I had been to a beach and hadn’t drank. I was only just starting to learn about this new version of myself, someone who could actually enjoy and embody herself without turning to alcohol for help. While I had no idea what the next steps were to continue welcoming and accepting myself, I listened to Glennon Doyle’s advice “Do the next right thing.” The ocean is always where I’ve felt most at home. So, I went for a swim.

When No wasn't an option

No wasn’t an option when I was still drinking. I didn’t say no to another drink, I didn’t say no to going out, I didn’t say no to going out with people I had nothing in common with. I didn’t say no to some sketchy situations. I didn’t say no to DRUNK DRIVING!! (This is perhaps what I’m most embarrassed to admit.) Alcohol made me feel powerful and invincible. interesting and sophisticated. I could carry deep philosophical conversations about the universe as much as I could carry long conversations with top executives about closing multimillion-dollar loans. You may be familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. I’m an obliger through and through. I want to people please. I shape shift and camouflage to be one with my surroundings. My inability to say no extended to areas of my life where alcohol wasn’t physically present. I couldn’t say no the greasy foods or to sitting on the couch for hours. I couldn’t say no to getting off social media. I couldn’t say no to spending money recklessly.

I couldn’t say no because I didn’t know what I was a yes for. I’ve been doing a lot of work lately in getting clear on my yes, my why. And huge changes are to come. Scary big changes that have my sobriety set as the foundation. And social situations in which alcohol is prevalent are helping me to practice my no. Saying no to alcohol has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Saying no is even harder after being REPEATEDLY asked if I want a drink or if “[I’m] sure” when I tell them no thank you. I can feel the discomfort from the other side and I want to fix it by giving in and making them happier. These scenarios have gotten easier only because I know what my yes is. My yes came unexpectedly after I downloaded a sobriety tracker app. It asks you during set up “What’s your reason?” And before I consciously thought of anything, my fingers typed “I want to feel alive.”

Having this be my yes makes not drinking easier. At work, after a pure shitshow of a night, we would joke about how our hangovers made us feel like death. I realized that at the core of my desire to feel alive is that I just wanted to FEEL. I had become so numb to most of my life. I used alcohol to numb out my overstimulation from work. I used alcohol to numb out dread for work. I used alcohol to have difficult conversations. I started to notice that by trying to numb out the undesired feelings, I was also numbing out the most desired ones. Because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable in any given situation, I couldn’t feel comfortable in even the easiest of moments. Because I didn’t want to be sad, I rarely felt truly happy. What I place my attention on becomes my reality. I was focusing on all the things I didn’t want and wasn’t clear on what I do want. I want to live a full, rich life and it requires experiencing the full spectrum of my feelings. And to feel a dark feeling reminds me that I’ve experienced its counterpart light feeling. When I feel sad about the sudden loss of my beloved dog, I am reminded of how much I love her. And it’s because of my deep love for her that allows me to experience this despair. I am grateful for my despair. If I didn’t grieve her as much as I have, it would mean I didn’t love her as much as I do. I refuse to limit my love to try to prevent any feelings of grief or sorrow. I am a yes for feeling all the feelings.

When no wasn’t an option, my experience of life was dull. I systemically desensitized myself to everything with every drink I consumed. When no wasn’t an option, I felt lost and alone. When no wasn’t an option, I felt jealousy towards those who were doing the things I wanted to do. Now that no IS an option, I feel purposeful. Now that no IS an option, my relationships and experiences are more meaningful. Now that no IS an option, I feel like I’ve taken my power back.

Changing curtains

I attended a work conference in dc this week and a team development retreat right after. The team development took place at a fancy 5 star resort, the same one we stayed in last year for the same event. However, last year couldn’t be more opposite than night and day to this year. Last year, i was the newest member on the team and the youngest. And because i felt completely unqualified for my position, I so dearly wanted to fit in. I wanted to be validated and accepted as an important member of the team. Do you remember the amusement park ride that drops unexpectedly and feels like you’re being sucked to the pit of the earth? That’s how i would explain my relationship with alcohol at the time of this trip. Combine that with my desire to fit in and be accepted, and I went down hard and fast. I had no proprioception with which to gain my surroundings. I blacked out all three nights of my work trip. Upon seeing me this year, the global head of our team exclaimed, in front of a group of colleagues I’d never met before, “wow! They let you back here?! You had the line of the trip last year!” It was said in jest but a wildfire of embarrassment ripped through my body. The line he’s referring to is one I’ve tried to remember a million times but can’t. And because I can’t remember, I only know what happened by piecing stories together. I was too ashamed the morning after to ask anyone anything so I listened intently as people rehashed the debauchery in good humor. As it was told, we were around the fire pit and I was going inside to use the restroom. My coworker asked me to grab a bottle of wine on my way back out. I apparently agreed but because my brain was in pure survival mode due to the level of my alcohol consumption, i had no short term memory function. So, I came back empty handed. When asked where the wine was, I smartly retorted in front of 15+ people including clients, “I’m not your wine bitch.” This is what the global leader of our team deemed “the line of the trip.”

I don’t know who i talked to at the fire. I don’t know when I left the fire. I don’t know how I got back to my room. I don’t know how long i was blacked out. What I do know is that I took a bath that night. And I only know that because, when i woke the next morning, the wrappers of the bath bombs i brought to treat myself in the luxurious soaking tub in my room were strewn across the bathroom floor. What was scarier than the thought of me taking a bath while blacked out was that I had bruises on my arms, hip, and right thigh. The kinds of bruises that are turquoise in color and so sensitive as to take my breath away with the slightest graze of my clothing. I woke that morning with a wicked hangover. (Duh.) I laid in the shower for 30 minutes. Literally. Laid. I laid and cried and imagined the water washing away the shame and guilt I had for my inability to control my drinking, washing away who I was so I could emerge as a person who could control her drinking. This was my routine every morning after I drank too much. Which was every time I drank.

With puffy eyes, wet hair, and general disorientation, I made it to the meeting room for the last part of our team development event. While most stayed out later than i did (from what I heard of course), no one seemed to be carrying the weight of shame on their shoulders like i was. But then again, I didn’t think anyone was secretly suffering as much as I was.

While drinking a beer with another coworker at the airport bar and with my tail between my legs, I asked him what happened at the fire. My level of shame must’ve been palpable because i could see he was feeling as uncomfortable answering this question as i was asking it. He told me I fell out of my chair but that “you didn’t make too big of a fool of yourself. We were all having fun.”

Sobriety has given me a lot of things in only 3 months. And one of those things is renewed perception. Of course, my perception will always be influenced by my past. And because of that, this year’s team development function was an opportunity to see exactly how i and my perception have changed. Given that I was at the same resort with the same people at the same time of year, it was the same context but very different content. Before i stopped drinking, I was trying to look out a window through blackout curtains. I believed that, without alcohol, my inner witty, fun self would never be invited to the party. I believed that to be accepted in a predominantly white male industry I was required to have a whiskey in hand. I believed that to make my way to the top required drinking martinis while getting smoked out in a cigar bar at a table of 15 men talking business. Now, 92 days sober, I’m still trying to look out that same window with a tightly drawn curtain curtain but it’s no longer a blackout curtain. Though it’s not a sheer curtain and, for that matter, it’s not an unobstructed open window either, it is letting in more light. There are shapes of something beyond making shadows through the curtain. What is it that’s causing the shadows? What would happen if I peeled the curtain back? Do the shadows disappear? Or do they play their shadow games on something else, revealing yet another opportunity for a layer to be removed? Is there a place beyond that has no shadows?

The veil of perception

I’m in DC for work and I brought my whole arsenal of hippie witch stuff with me. Essential oils, diffuser, dry brush, oil pulling, cards, and crystals. (Forgot my tongue scraper dammit.) I also brought my own bulletproof coffee setup, including a hand blender. Since establishing this morning routine a few weeks ago, I’ve noticed that I’m more generous to and with others. Because I’ve nourished myself and filled my own cup first, I’m not looking for external validation (as much). I don’t (always) need someone else to fill my cup because I’ve already done it. Part of this morning routine also includes meditation. When I tried establishing a routine in the past, I would set a timer, check it off my list, be very Type A about it. The practice has never stuck. I think because it was something I was supposed to be doing, not something I wanted to do. Lately, the last step of my morning routine has been simply sitting. I give myself abyangha right before this (it’s a warm oil massage that helps to move the lymph and soften the skin). I sit naked on a towel with all the oily goodness soaking in, and just sit. I sit with no timer, no agenda, no expectations of how this is going to go. I always start with a few big breaths. Then I sit until I feel complete. Some days complete feels like getting clear on what’s “the next right thing,” as Glennon Doyle calls it. Some days complete feels like remembering my circumstances are not permanent. Today, in my hotel room, I sat on the blanket my mother gave me years ago, complete felt like a deeply visceral gratitude. I can rarely remember the thoughts that come up during meditation, but I almost always remember the first thought upon opening my eyes. When I opened my eyes this morning, I was looking out my hotel room window with the thin sheer curtain still pulled closed. It was this funny ah-ha moment for me. I wasn’t seeing the buildings out my window clearly because of this thin veil. It was a similar realization I had laying on the sugar table. That because of our life’s experiences, we are never seeing things as they truly are. We are seeing everything through the veil of our perception. This came to me on the plane to DC also. As we were making our descent through the clouds, there were a few times where I could see the ground but only through fog just-thick-enough that I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a landing strip or a highway. My perception of these things isn’t wrong. My perception is my reality. And my perception is created by the culture I am raised in, the people who raised me, the schools I’ve been to, the friends I’ve had and have, the jobs I’ve had. Every single experience I’ve ever had since before I was conceived (I’ll write about that at another time :)) has influenced my perception of the experiences I have now and will have in the future. (perception is becoming a really weird word to say/write at this point and I’m doubting if it’s even really a word…)

I have two sisters. Growing up, we would get in fights like all siblings do. One of us would run to our mom and tattle tale. And our mom was always good about listening to both sides (or three sides) of the story because each of our stories were true to us but it wasn’t the whole truth. Usually, we were all to blame for something. And listening to my sisters’ stories when we got in fights was a practice in empathy (of course, I didn’t realize it at the time. I was too busy thinking of all the ways I would get revenge). I use this definition for empathy: understanding independent of agreement. Did I want to agree with my sisters after they tattletaled on me? HELL NO. I would’ve rather died. But after sitting in time out for awhile, I could understand why they were upset. People don’t like to get hit on the head with a fist even if they deserved it because they’re wearing your shirt without permission. So, if I can remember these experiences with my sisters, that everyone has their own perception of things because of their own life experiences, surely I can extend more compassion and empathy to others, and more importantly, to myself. Because what I’m seeing and how I act isn’t wrong, especially if I’m unaware of it. It’s true and right to me because of all the influencing factors I’ve been exposed to. And, for me, this is why my morning ritual has become so important. A non-negotiable if you will. To be in relationship with myself, sit in silence and to lovingly unpack it all. To unpack the beliefs and perceptions and to become aware of which ones are inherited through family or culture or media or what have you. And then, to choose those beliefs that still serve me and bring me closer to my Highest Good. And to say thank you to those that no longer serve me because they got me to where I am today.

Deep thoughts on the sugar table

I got “sugared” for the first time yesterday. It’s an alternative to wax and is supposed to be more gentle for those who breakout after waxing, especially on the lip. I am one of those people who breakouts in disgusting herpes-like sores on my lip after forcefully ripping out my mustache. It even happened the week of my wedding. Awful. Anyway, when I got to the sugaring place, my esthetician told me I had no hairs to sugar off. I reassured her, I indeed did. She went on to tell me I have “little kitten hairs, like we all do.” Not sure what this means, kitten hairs. Kittens are pretty furry. I digress. She went ahead with the sugaring process while telling me about Jason Sudeikis’ penis and how huge it is. Apparently, it was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I don’t remember, and she couldn’t believe I couldn’t remember it. While I was laying on the table, mumbling “mhms” and “oh yeahs?” and some “hahas” for good measure, I was thinking about her comment about not having hair to wax off. And I realized, yet again, that what we focus on becomes our reality. Because I was aware, (nay, self-conscious!) of my “kitten hairs,” they became my reality. Regardless of what others’ experience of my mustache may be, I experience it to be true. I wonder how many places in my life this happens? Times in which, because of my own lived experiences, my perspective of a situation is vastly different than anyone else’s when placed in the “same situation.” But could any of these situations really be the same if everyone is viewing everything through the lens of their own lived and felt experiences? I’ve heard before that eye witness testimonies tend to be the least reliable for this reason. We see what we believe. And even though there may be 10 people who saw a crime happen, every statement will be different because of the beliefs formed (knowingly or unknowingly) due to their life experiences. I find this idea to be really powerful; it means that once I am aware of a held belief, I have the ability to change it, thus influencing changing what I see. I choose my thoughts moment to moment and my brain will do its little brain thing to help me confirm what I choose to think. It’s called confirmation bias. There are some beliefs that serve us and support us. There are also beliefs that are detrimental to our mental health and to the lives of others. Regardless of what “kind” of belief, the brain will find the evidence to support those beliefs! So maybe my belief about my mustache breakout isn’t how terrible it is that I have a mustache. It goes deeper. It’s the belief that I am not beautiful because I have a man mustache and women aren’t supposed to have mustaches! The belief I am now choosing is “Owning my imperfections makes me uniquely beautiful.” And so the work of self-compassion and giving myself grace continues.

Creating my reality through language

I can choose to see life through the lens of love and compassion, and to believe that everyone is doing the best they can, with what they have, where they are. And because I choose this way of being, I will see what I want to see because I've made it my mission to create that as my reality. The same goes for whether you're looking for confirmation that you don't belong or that you're not enough; you'll always find it because you've made that your goal. (Thanks Brene Brown for the always wise words!)

For awhile, I've heard this phrase in trainings and development workshops at the yoga studio I teach at: "What I say, creates." But it only recently landed for me. One of the teachers gave the example, "If I tell you this person is a great friend--supportive, loving, fun--you'll engage this person through the lens of what I've created for you with language. If I were to say the exact opposite, that this person is backstabbing and conniving, you may never engage that person or you'll engage them thinking they're about to screw you over." This was an actual epiphany for me. 

It's got me thinking about all the areas of my life in which I may be creating something unintentionally because of the words I've chosen. Am I creating more suffering and discontent because of my lack of intentional language? What am I creating in my life because of the words I knowingly or unknowingly choose? How can I be more conscious of the sacred practice of language and communication? Where are the areas that a simple rephrasing of language and, thus, a reframing of reality could be a total life changer? 

You see, we're always creating--moment to moment, interaction to interaction. So ask yourself: what do you WANT to create? And choose that. Choose to say no when you really want to because of the ease it creates for you later, choose to see that people really are trying their best and you'll see that the world isn't so bad after all, choose to believe that you ARE worthy and enough...because you are! In all situations, you have a choice to create what you want to create, to see what you want to see, because of the words you choose. Words are more impactful than we realize. And the power of choice is the not-so-subtle tool that can make all the difference.