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Blessed To Be In Pain

It’s been a tough week. Well, a tough two weeks. I’d like to exaggerate and say whatever could have gone wrong, did. That’s hyperbolic and thank goddess that’s not what happened. Everything didn’t go wrong. A lot did, though.

So, today as I traveled from full-time mommying to solo life in New York, I listened to some podcasts and tried to get back on track. I listened to Tony Robbins interview Pitbull. And as Tony is so great at doing, he reminded me to be grateful for my hardships.

It took me a long time to get here. A really long time. I get it now. I didn’t for my twenties, thirties or most of my forties.  I heard people say they wouldn’t be who they were if it weren’t for the hard times. All I could think of was who I might be if I hadn’t had the crappy childhood and the resulting behaviors. I imagined a life free of struggle, a life blessed by financial freedom and full of social confidence, stability and security.

To be embarrassingly honest, I didn’t fully get it till just a few years ago.  I was starting to wrap my head around it, slowly but surely moving towards what I knew instinctively to be true. Then, I saw I Am Not Your Guru, the documentary about Tony Robbins. I heard about his crappy childhood and saw where he is and it clicked.  I got it!

Now, I’m not a big fan of trendy documentaries or pop-psych, but that’s what it took for me to get it. I heard the right words at the right time.

Now, I embrace my crappy childhood and my big struggles. They do make me who I am and for that I’m grateful, but also, they have made me really good at what I do and able to really embrace the imperfect and not be so judgmental and accept people for who they are, where they are; all traits that are so important to the healing work that I do.

I also know and accept that pain is where the big healing and the big growth happens. I know, it sounds so trendy and woo-woo, but it’s also true. I have slowly, reluctantly learned to sit with the discomfort and learned not to act out.

I love my life. LOVE IT!  This week was a hard one, though.  It was hard cause my kid was sick and then my kid was hurt and I made mistakes that really affected my day to day life and made me feel worthless and hopeless and I got hit hard by the fuck-its. If you don’t know the fuck-its, you’re lucky.  It’s the place where nothing matters and the more you can self-sabotage and hurt yourself, the better you feel. Some people eat a tub of ice cream, some people spend their paycheck at the mall and some of us really like to go deep and big and do irreparable damage to our lives and ourselves.  Guess which one I am?

So, I got to a truly terrible place, which is a funny thing for me to admit, cause I like to hide it from everyone I know and I can be in the fuck-its, thinking my life is over, or that I’d like to end it, but then I’ll be making plans for three months from now.  I’m a complicated bird.  I actually have grown a bit and don’t hide it from my sweetie, but alternatelivly, I feel guilty for stressing someone else out.

Complicated.

The fuck-its passed, as they always do. That’s a set of skills I’ve only learned in the last six years or so. The world is not actually ending, even though it feels really, really bad, I now know that I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, do what I need to do and the fuck-its will pass.

Years ago I went to an awesome Sunday morning sermon by Rev, Paulette Pipe at Unity Church of Lawrence in Kansas. It was called If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going. Based on the Winston Churchill quote, it was examples from Paulette’s life about times she just wanted to sit in the mud and cry, but she kept going. And she reminded us that whatever you do, you do NOT want to stop in the middle of hell. It’s hot and uncomfortable and it is a place where there is no joy or grace. She illuminated the gifts on the other side of hell and how if she’d stop having faith, if she’d stopped believing that there was something better, she never would have done things like move to the US from the UK. That sermon was life-changing and she’s still someone that I like to listen to when I need a little reality check and I need to remember that the universe celebrates and supports me.

The link above is Paulette’s radio show on Unity radio. And the best part? She has this soothing English-accented voice that if you doubt that you are loved, open and grateful, she’ll remind you.

Danielle LaPorte says, “It’s not the pain that drives you insane, it’s the fear that the pain will go on and on.”

I believe that. Completely. I also get really exhausted that I’m BACK in the fuck-its. WHY do I have to go the fuck-its in the first place? That can make it last even longer for me.

So, this round of the fuck-its was long and hard, but it did pass. I’m on the other side and life seems exciting and fun again. I’m a little wary and a little worried about the next time, which will come, cause it always does, but today I’m on the other side and all is okay.

I know I’ve said it. I LOVE my life. I love holding space and healing people that are in pain. I’m good at what I do. You know why? Cause I get it. I get how hard and big and ugly it can be. I get it in my bones, deep in my soul and swirling around my head. So when I meet someone in the fuck-its, I know they’re not exaggerating, I know how much it hurts and how it seems way too hard. We all need that gentle hug, that reminder, that nudge towards the other side. Being so hurt, so damaged, so tired and so done has taught me how to just hold space and give that gentle nudge.

The other gift? When the darkness passes, the light is so bright. I know, that sounds woo-woo and hippy dippy, but it’s true.  Coming back into the light feels like I’ve had a big purge. I feel lighter and everything feels lighter. Also, beginner’s mind is right there, so easy to touch and feel and that always makes the work of beginner’s mind so simple and easy.

So until the next time the fuck-its find me, I’m feeling lucky, grateful and blessed to have felt the pain.

 

 

 

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DBT Skills, Cope Ahead, Attention Shifting and Temperature Change

Over at BreatheOnline, the six week course for managing anxiety and depression in a new way, we’re picking up again in the middle of week 4 with DBT skills.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy changed my life! As you’ve heard me say here before these skills are simple, but not always easy skills that help you manage your mood, mental health and especially times of high emotion. Developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for helping people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it has been instrumental in changing the lives of people with Bi-polar Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, ADD and PTSD.

As most of you know, I struggle with anxiety and also have a PTSD diagnosis. For full disclosure, I’m not medicated, but work with lots of folks that are. I manage with diet, exercise, yoga and dbt skills. As with every human on the planet, there are good days and there are bad days. I am extremely grateful that these days the bad days are not the lows that they once were.

One of the skills we’re talking about in BreatheOnline is Cope Ahead. This is one of my favorites. This is a bit of what I wrote to the class in the FB group this week.

What does your week look like from here? Are there meetings, activities, events, interactions that you know might be difficult for you? Are you likely to be triggered?

Where can you anticipate needing to be especially skillful?

Cope Ahead is a skill that I use every morning. I wake up and think about my day and note what absolutely has to be done, what can shift if it needs to, where I have breaks or where maybe I’m going to be in high gear for a long period of time. This helps me know that I need to eat more in the morning and pack a snack, cause the day is going to be FULL and that maybe tonight is not the night to meet a friend for drinks, cause it’s going to be long and, oh yeah, I have to be across town by 7am. Drinks is something that I can easily shift,  so that I can feel more calm and be successful in terms of what I want to accomplish.

Do this with your week and think about what kind of dbt skills might be helpful. This week, I know that I’m traveling and my daughter is picking me up at the airport, then the whole family is going to dinner, before she and my ex head out on a cross-country drive the following morning. So, I need to be “on” when I arrive. I need to navigate a potentially difficult evening of high emotion on everyone’s part. Lots of excitement and sadness and anticipation. A mine field, right?  I need to be at my most skillful. Despite the travel plans to work while I’m flying, maybe the better choice is to work in the airport and then sleep on the plane. If I can’t sleep, maybe watch something totally mindless, so I’m Attention Shifting from anything upsetting or worrying. When I arrive, if I have time, jump in and take a cool shower to feel refreshed, but also to soothe my nervous system, using Temperature Change,  so that I’m in relax and repose.

The next morning, the girl and her dad leave for a three day drive. So. being perky and confident and excited for them is my job. Another shower with some cool down at the end will help me feel energized and help my brain feel calm.  I also will get up fairly early to make a big breakfast, get our son off to school and make sure everyone feels good about their day.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ll solo parent, so I’ll hit the grocery store and start a week of cooking ahead for my ex and son. I’ll freeze big batches of soup, pasta sauce and breakfast burritos. THEN i will have a little down town, cause the day after I travel always requires a little downtown. Thursday and Friday, as well as the weekend are pretty open. I’ll probably work a bunch and get ready for some private yoga clients and cooking gigs next week. So I just have to be on top of it for a few days and then I can nap, take long walks, watch movies with my son and chill a bit before I get back into work mode next week.

What are you focusing on this week? What are tools that you’re going to be using to make sure you don’t get emotionally hijacked? It happens, there are things we can’t predict, but what can you see coming?

Check out A Yogi Kitchen for more information about BreatheOnline. There’s no session scheduled as this time. Contact me  and let me know if you’re interested and I can get a group going. . I’m nothing if not flexible, I AM a yogini.

Week 3 Yoga Poses to Manage Your Mood

Week3yogaposes`Over at breatheOnline we’re starting week 3 and focusing on yoga poses to help us manage our anxiety and depression. 

Getting ready for this week I’ve been reading, researching and even just reflecting on my own practice, what it’s meant to me and how I manage with yoga.

There are so many yoga poses that help mange my anxiety and ptsd. Legs up the wall, supported child’s pose, supine supported twist, prasarita padottanasana. I use them regularly to manage my emotions. 

The biggest gift from yoga though is that feeling that I got the first day I pressed up into down dog. it was this scary, exhilarating, peaceful feeling. It was coming home to me. I was 26 and I’d never felt that feeling.  I felt it for a moment and then it slipped away. I remember thinking, wait! what was that? it came back for savasana and I was hooked.

Now 21 years later, it comes quickly and lasts past my practice. Sometimes it stays with me for days, but a yoga practice is like showering. You have to do it often to get the results.

Without this simple gift I would be lost.  Well, more lost than I normally am, but it’s a tool that I can pull out quickly and easily.  When I feel lost, which I often do, I can get on the mat and find myself. And not just find myself, but my most honest and authentic self. This is the place where I can’t lie to myself. I can’t hear the voices in the back of my head or the critical people around me. On the mat, there’s only Melissa.

I invited my BreatheOnline class to practice legs up the wall for at least five minutes every morning this week and notice the difference after just a week. Join us! 

BreatheOnline is a six week long course to manage anxiety and depression in a new way. We’re just starting our third week. You work in your place, at your pace, so you can join us and I’ll get you caught up! 

 

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My Office Today

Waiting on the Upper West Side

This was my office today.

It wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to be a very different day.

First, I was supposed to hit it early and get a bunch of work done before I left at 7am to cook for a client. When I woke up at 5:30, I was pretty tired. I had a text message from a friend who wanted to hang out a bit after breakfast, at 8am. So, I shifted, because I was tired and because, well, connection and coffee with a friend.

Then my friend had a client that I wanted to meet. This client had only heard about me from my friend, but had referred me and I ended up booking a client. So, I wanted to meet her, give her some food and thank her for the blind referral.

I finally got out of the house and stopped to grab a bite at the corner cafe, where I got a kale ricotta croissant. There was nowhere to sit, so I decided to just get grab a train and head to work. I walked around the corner to the Colombian bakery. I ordered extra empanadas and an iced coffee so my total would be over the ten dollar credit card minimum only to find, as I was paying, that their credit card machine was down. Luckily, I had cash.

I had a bag full of pastries and a coffee with a lot less cash in my pocket, but I figured I’d have food for tonight or for tomorrow morning. Probably the Universe preparing me.  

Missed the train by 20 seconds only to victoriously see, another, practically empty train behind it. Out of service. So, I waited.

Second train came quickly and I got a seat. Score!

Met the doorman at my client’s building with a smile, explaining that I’m the Jackson’s chef. Blank stare. Not a doorman I’ve met before. Usually they just wave me in. We both tried calling the client. She’d already emailed me that I’d only see her husband today, cause she had a work outing. Phone went straight to voicemail. I smiled and reassured the doorman that I’d walk down the street, sit at Starbucks and be back when she called in. I could have forced the issue. I saw that moment of doubt in his eyes. He was just doing his job and who am I to make that more difficult?

Three hours later, at Starbucks, amongst the homeless teenagers, I texted my client and told her to let me know when we should reschedule. I’d completed a food order for tomorrow’s client, watched a marketing class on CreateLive, created a meal plan for another client and posted about Self-Care for my online anxiety and depression course.

I decided to walk, cause, you know, 10,000 steps.  I stopped at the Best Buy at Columbus Circle, grabbed chickpea pasta on sale at Whole Foods. I decided to walk another ten blocks to catch the most direct train. Cause, well, 10,000 steps. I remembered that I still needed to throw something together for someone in my building.  So I stopped at a local market to see if bacon was on sale. It wasn’t.

Kept walking. Remembered that while I’d put the order together for tomorrow’s client, I hadn’t actually ordered it. So, I stopped at another Starbuck’s and stole wifi and used my client’s Amex to order her food for her. 

Caught the train, got a seat,  then realized I was headed in the wrong direction. Got off, switched directions and got a seat on the uptown train. Score!

Got to my neighborhood. Sprinkling.  I decided to stop and grab a bottle of wine. Harder rain. Stopped at my regular market where I knew bacon was on sale, passed up the sad looking romaine and headed to the green grocer’s. The skies opened up and all of the sudden I was drenched and my paper Whole Foods bag was threatening to dump my wine on the cement.

I ducked into a neighborhood cafe, ordered a glass of wine, dried myself as best I could with the extra napkins the waitress brought me and pulled out my trusty and much loved new Mac. Here I sit writing.

This is the second time in two months that I’ve been caught it in a downpour. Both times I’ve been struck by how lucky I am that all I have to do is get home, peel off my wet clothes, change into something comfy and go about my day. I don’t have to worry that my socks and shoes are wet and now I’ll probably get a blister, which could lead to an infection and since I have blood glucose issues, could be hazardous to my health.

Each time I’ve worried that my fancy Osprey messenger bag won’t actually keep my pricey computer dry.

I don’t have to worry that all my belongings are soaked and who knows how long it will take them to dry. How would I even get them all dry if I didn’t have a home?

Both times I have thanked goddess that I’m not homeless. I have choices. I have options.

Today it struck me that while my day was discouraging, a little frustrating and mostly annoying, it was a day of privilege.

I am a bi, woman of color. Some may argue that I can’t know true privilege. I argue that absolutely every part of my day today reeked of privilege. At every point of my day I had more than one choice. I think that may be the true marker of privilege.

Choices, options, are privilege in a way that having a big house and a fat bank account can’t know.

I am extremely grateful for my life. It’s not always easy and I don’t always do it pretty, but I do it me. That is extreme privilege.

I have other markers, more socially expectred markers, of privilege. I am a private school baby. I have an education that few in our country, or anywhere, get. I grew up with certain expectations for my life. When I stepped off that path, it was because I chose it, not because I had to.

All the mistakes, all the diversions, I chose. I made mistakes, of course, but nothing was just shitty luck or a system that didn’t support my dreams or efforts. It was all me, baby.

Some days my life sucks. Just like everyone’s life sometimes sucks. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed. Some days I am so tired of being tired and so tired of everything being so hard.

Then, I have a day like today, where I could have ended up with one of those attitudes. It could have been a why-me-kinda-day. Today, I excercised the power to choose my attitude. Today it wasn’t hard.

Some days the anxiety is too big. Some days the PTSD kicks me in the butt. Some days those things start to feel big, but I can make different choices. Some days I can’t.

Today was a day where I got to chose whether the obstacles were going to knock me on my ass or lead me to happily walk through the rain.

That is privilege.

Oh, and I’m at 10,164 steps. Score!

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Thank You Universe!

Anything worth doing

This is the perfect reminder today. The first video for BreatheOnline went out yesterday and I’m having a little vulnerability hangover. You can see it too. Part 1 is for all to see, http://on.fb.me/1jIdIFf

I’m also doing some new consulting work this afternoon and am having a huge block. Ive been on the mat, meditated and then opened Facebook and here are the words I needed to hear.

It was a memory from Facebook and it was the perfect timing.

So often things show up just when you need them. We just have to pay attention. I can’t tell you how often those memories pop up and I ignore them. Today, I just decided to look and there it was.

So often the answer to what’s blocking me or what’s holding me back is to open my heart and do whatever it is with my whole heart. The yoga answer is to let whatever it is move from my brain to my heart. Overthinking never helps me.

Brene Brown  talks about the whole heart and the word courage.  “The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic.”

So, I need to remember both the definition of the word, as we know it today and the word as it was originally intended. The Universe has asked me to be brave and open my heart, to let the vulnerability be okay and to keep doing what I know to do with my whole heart. Yoga has taught me that’s always the answer. I just forget sometimes.

Today I heard what I needed to hear.
Thanks Universe!

I’ve Been In Bed

bedFor the last few months I’ve had some health issues to deal with. They’ve felt scary and big and I’m at that wait and see place. Everything is fine for now, but next year, with a new bunch of tests, I’ll know more. This week I had a reaction to a procedure. It knocked me on my butt. I took to my bed.

iIt was lovely there. Now, normally, I’m the kinda person who can live in bed. I like to do everything in bed. It’s where I drink my morning coffee and check my email first thing. Then I decide what the day needs to look like. Sometimes it sucks. I have a client and have to hop the subway..

Sometimes, though, there are no fires. No clients with overwhelming anxiety, no need to be at Starbucks to get things done. Then I can snuggle back in and do a little bed living.

There is nothing I won’t do in bed. I read, watch Netflix, eat, drink coffee, paint my nails, answer emails, plan menus, return phone calls, schedule, meditate and even do some stretches. (yes, I know what sleep specialists say about people like me)

Yesterday I didn’t do anything. There was some Netflix and some Facebook, but mostly being in pain and being in bed just gave me time to be. bed3

We live in a society where we schedule time to be. We get up extra early to be. We go on retreat to be. I meditate and practice mindful movement, so I also schedule time to be.

Yesterday, the universe had a different plan for me. I’m a big one for listening to the universe. Sometimes, like all of us, I don’t do what the universe has in store for me, but I’ve learned the hard way that’s always a bad choice.

So, I listened and did what I knew to do. I just was quiet and let my body have the time it needed to heal. Hour after hour, I just relaxed. It was delicious. It was better than being mindful. It was better than the sense of accomplishment from cleaning out my inbox. It was better than catching up with friends on the phone. It was just a full day of nothing!

I didn’t recognize the true benefit till today.

Today I’m not 100%, but I feel clear and rested. RESTED! I find myself smiling easier and my brain is quiet. Today feels easy.

bed4Most days I have to work, and sometimes hard, to get these benefits. Who knew just a day of nothing could reap such benefits?

I know that I need to take more days off and need to just relax a lot more. Often my days off are spent doing other things, like laundry. A day where I just sit? Just be?

I’m going to have to work on that!

 

This week I’m playing catch up and gearing up for Practices for Peace and Nourishing Food Simplified, July 8th and 9th, both at Om Tree Shala. Join me this weekend!  Hitting Manhattan, NY and Salem, Ma later this year. 

Can’t work with me one on one? Join me starting Monday July 10th for BreatheEcourse, free seven days of emails in your inbox with tips and tools to help you manage anxiety and depression. Starting July 23rd, BreatheOnline, a six week course for more in depth work at a slower pace. 

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It’s My Birthday Week!

img_0695Okay, this was actually my break. It’s my birthday week and that’s a very special week for me. It’s the week i look back at the last 12 months. i think about what’s been fun and easy, what the struggles were and where the growth was.

This is my New Year’s. My birthday is when I think about what’s happened, but also about what’s coming. this is when I dream.

So, this week as I need to work hard to get caught up for Practices for Peace in Lawrence, develop Nourishing Food Simplified and organize myself for BreatheOnline, I’m making myself taking some good, intentional self-care breaks.

The last few months I’ve been less than great at self-care. i keep thinking I’ll take a break soon. To be honest, I’ve had some health issues and Ive had to have tests and doctor’s appointments and had days that I just couldn’t fit another thing in. I’m embarrassed to say that spending so much time focused on me and having all this overwhelming attention has made me shy away from self-care.

It’s not something I’m proud of. I’m turning it around, though. So, if I can’t do full days of meditating, walking by the water, massage and journaling, all my favorite self-care activities, I’ll at least take little breaks. And I’ll share them. And don’t worry, I’m not sunning, I just spent a few minutes with my eyes closed on the roof in between veggie burgers and breakfast bites and then i snapped this perfect pic.

Expect more birthday pics and even a giveaway over the next 7 days or so!