Dissecting a Secret

My boyfriend and I recently watched "The Circle," arguably Tom Hanks' worst movie. Though not due to his performance (Hanks is always great) or even Emma Watson's - but the movie lacked substance  - IMO. 

While it was neither of our favorite movies, it did help to pass the time on the plane back from vacation, and one line stood out to me that I am still thinking about today: "Secrets are lies." 

Are they? 

In order to have this conversation, we need to get clear on what defines a secret. I'll venture to say that most people know what a lie is, but we will take a look at that word as well.

You see, not everyone looks at a secret the same way (and this in and of itself is a factor in the justification of keeping secrets). 

Keep in mind folks that this my blog. It's my opinion. There will be very little research and a whole lot of emotion. 

Let's take a look at America's most trusted dictionary, Merriam Webster, for a definition of the word

Definition of secret (as an adjective)

  1. a :  kept from knowledge or view
    b :  marked by the habit of discretion   
    c :  working with hidden aims or methods
    d :  not acknowledged
    e :  conducted in secret a secret trial

  2. remote from human frequentation or notice :  secluded

  3. revealed only to the initiated :  esoteric

  4. designed to elude observation or detection

  5. containing information whose unauthorized disclosure could endanger national security 

  6.  kept hidden from others : known to only a few people

  7.  keeping information hidden from others

  8.  hidden from the knowledge of others 

Definition of secret (as a noun)

  1. a :  something kept hidden or unexplained
    b :  something kept from the knowledge of others or shared only confidentially with a few
    c :  a method, formula, or process used in an art or operation and divulged only to those of one's own company or craft
    d secrets plural :  the practices or knowledge making up the shared discipline or culture of an esoteric society

  2. a prayer traditionally said inaudibly by the celebrant just before the preface of the mass

  3. something taken to be a specific or key to a desired end 

  4. a fact or piece of information that is kept hidden from other people

in secret

  1. :  in a private place or manner

The key here is that withholding the information is purposeful. One is deliberately not telling the other person(s) pertinent information. 

Here's an interesting piece of history of the origin: In late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin secretus (adjective) ‘separate, set apart,’ from the verb secernere, from se- ‘apart’ + cernere ‘sift.’

When someone keeps a secret, they are setting that information apart from the rest of the information so that the entire truth is not known. 

Before we dissect the definition of secret a bit further, let's take a look at the word lie

Definition of lie (as a verb)

lied; lying

:to say something that is not true in order to deceive someone

Definition of lie (as a noun) 

:something said or done in the hope of deceiving :an untrue statement

Now, let's examine some of the parallels between a secret in a lie:

  • In a secret, one is purposefully withholding information (not saying anything); and in a lie, one is sharing information that is not true (saying* something)
  • In both a secret and a lie, the person** is deceiving someone
  • In both a secret and a lie, the whole truth is deliberately kept form someone
  • In both a secret and lie, the person is betraying the other person

*Saying could also be speaking, writing, doing, etc. 
** For sanities sake I will keep person, someone, individual etc. singular  but it could be more than one person

It likely goes without saying but I will note it anyway, that the person that is kept in the dark by both a secret and a lie are interested parties - the ones that wish to know the truth.  The ones that arguably, should know the truth - the whole truth (yes, I too have the solemn oath running through my head). 

The point of lie is deception. It's to lead someone to believe something other than the truth. Given this, by default a secret is a lie. By keeping a secret, and withholding relevant information, you are leading someone to believe something other than the truth. 

Both are keeping the other person from knowing the truth. 

Ah... But is keeping the truth from someone inherently malevolent?

A few weeks ago, I would have told you that yes, keeping secret or telling a lie is never acceptable. And then...my boyfriend surprised me with an amazing trip that we will be taking to the islands next year. He had this planned and kept this a secret from me for about a month. We even talked about the trip and had decided (or so I thought) that we would pass on this one... save our money for something else and/or a trip in the future. Other people knew about this and they too kept the secret.

I didn't feel betrayed. I wasn't angry or upset in any way by this secret/lie. As you can imagine,  I was elated. I bursted into tears of joy and jumped up and down at work when he shared the news with me in order to make my Monday a little better. 

So what's the difference here? Is this the quintessential "white lie?" 

Alright, we'll take a quick look at the definition of a white lie. 

Definition of white lie

:a lie about a small or unimportant matter that someone tells to avoid hurting another person

Hm.... So it wasn't exactly a white lie as he wasn't trying to avoid hurting me. He was however, keeping the information from me to bring me joy.  

There are two things that jump out of me in this example that makes it an outlier: 

  1. The intent of the secret/lie was to bring joy
  2. It was always intended that the truth would be revealed (temporary) 

Well that's a little messy isn't it?

What are some of the other reasons that people lie?

One that I think about often is the classic "I did it to protect you." 

When we begin to peel the layers off that onion it's nearly impossible to not tear up from the burning of lie within a lie. 

You are not protecting someone by not telling the the truth.

No dear, that is a lie you tell yourself. You are attempting to protect yourself from having to deal with whatever it is you are keeping from them. And, you don't trust them enough to handle the truth (yep, I too have Jack Nicholson's face from A Few Good Men in my head). 

You're lying to yourself thinking that you are protecting them when ultimately you are afraid of what you may have to do/change/say/confront when the truth is known. You don't want to have to change your behavior or uproot a status quo. 

There are few things worse than being kept in the dark about something because someone didn't trust you enough to know the information. Ultimately, the lie itself becomes worse than whatever the lie was about.  

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"Why didn't you tell me?" 

"Because you didn't need to know." OR "Because you never asked."

It's not your job to decide if someone needs to know something when they are involved in the situation. If it crosses your mind to tell them then chances are - you should tell them the truth. And when you choose to keep it a secret (lie) then chances are - the truth will come out eventually. 
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You know that sinking feeling when that happens to you? The why didn't they just tell me? The why didn't they trust me enough to be able to handle this? Why didn't they feel safe enough to talk to me?

When you don't trust someone enough to handle the truth you are making a decision on their behalf and belittling their ability to rise above your expectations. 

What if they don't handle the truth? Then you have bigger problems and you should be glad you now have the opportunity to address them. 

Infidelity and family affairs are likely on our minds at this point. I don't think this means we are all cynical humans - I think it's because it's with the people we love the most that a lie hurts the most. 

The situations like: 

  • Finding out your significant other frequents a grocery store across from town so that they can visit with their ex with the intent of seeing if they can get back together
  • Finding out your significant other and your best friend have been romantically talking and spending time together 
  • Finding out well into adulthood that you were adopted
  • Finding out you have half-siblings from a parent's affair 10 years ago

These situations happen. And whether you tell the truth or lie - there is hurt and/or confusion. The difference is when the truth is revealed, a whole lot of hurt and confusion can be spared and a conversation can be had. That doesn't mean you'll be surrounded by rainbows and flowers after the fact, but you will be able to move forward.

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There is an outlier banging at my door. I  was talking about writing this with my sister and brother-in-law a couple of weeks ago and we got on the subject of ... "ok what about ones that really are to protect someones feelings... ?"

The example of a person dying. The person dying asks, "Am I going to die?" You say: "No, you are not going to die." But you know that they are going to die. But you don't want to cause them more pain so you lie. Is this justified? Is this an "OK lie?" One that is helping them? Is this the accepted white lie? 

The natural response is that yes, of course it is OK. You were bringing them peace and comfort. You truly were protecting them. 

I'm going to challenge this a bit. 

What if... you told them the truth to bring them peace and comfort? 

"Yes, you are going to die. And I don't know what is going to happen to you but right here - right now, you are loved by me and so many others. You are not alone." 

I realize that is radical and I'm writing this while sitting on my couch with my coffee and Wille Nelson on and very from from that tragic situation. 

Would I lie in that situation? I'm not sure. But I will tell you that I'm going to ponder it some more. 

I'll leave you with this: 

If there is a lie weighing heavy on your shoulders ask yourself: 

  1. Am I lying to bring joy to the person I'm lying to?
  2. Am I protecting myself but hurting another by not revealing the truth?
  3. Can I trust them enough to handle the truth?
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You're Being Judged

You’re being judged. 

Everyday. 

Judged by yourself. 

And, judged my others. 

Judged by people you know, love, and trust. 

And, judged by strangers. 

We know it. 

We feel it. 

We judge others. 

And, we judge ourselves.

The other day I was fishing, across the lake from me was a man fishing. I realized a woman was in the truck on the side of the road close to him. I would see him catch and fish and then show her and then release the fish. When I heard her say “I thought we were having fish for supper?,” I immediately judged her. I thought: ‘Ugh… lazy…. It’s a beautiful day out, why aren’t you out here fishing? Why are you making him do the work? Why are you being greedy? And, ...at this lake?... Come on lady, this isn't a fishery.’

These judgements stuck with me. Why did I judge her so harshly? 

I know nothing about her. Maybe she underwent surgery recently, or is following her doctor’s orders, or is getting over an illness, or has a disability, and she cannot easily get out of the vehicle? Maybe she wants badly to be by his side fishing and for some reason - is unable to. Maybe they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and they do not have the liberty to purchase clean protein for their dinner. 

I'll offer another story:

When I was living in Philly, I worked from home (which was an apartment) and I would go for walks around my building during the day. I got to know many of the people in my building, staff, and folks that well… just kind of hung around that building (I lived right were South Philly begins). 

There was a man that would often be around the building - nice as can be and we would make small talk and chat from time to time. He would walk with me for a block or two perhaps and then we would part ways. I’d say this man was likely in his late 40s. 

Over time, I learned that he had a disability and many employers would not hire him due to his disability. When he could find work, it did not pay well. I am not sure where he lived exactly, but it wasn’t my building. I learned he had a son and paid for his college - even when he could not feed himself properly. He wanted to eat healthy and would comment on my green juice and he said that he would go down to the Italian Market and buy produce for cheap. 

One day, I was walking and bumped into him and saw that he was crying. I put my arm through his and asked him to walk with me. He told me about some troubles. Something was happening with his house and something also happened with his son and his wallet was now empty. This was not a cry for help but a cry for someone to simply listen. But, I knew that in order for me to sleep that night, I had to try and do something to alleviate some of his pain. I asked him to come with me and I went to the ATM and pulled out some cash. I can’t remember how much it was but I do know that at this time in my life I was living nearly paycheck-to-paycheck. I knew that for the next week or two, I would have to eliminate some luxuries like green juice… coffee out… lunch out for the money that I was about to give him. I was more than OK with this. He started to cry more when I gave him the money. He looked at me in disbelief. He said that it wasn't why he told me those things. I insisted that he take the money. He told me that he wasn’t sure when he would able to pay me back - or if he could. I told him that I did not want him to pay me back and told him to go buy himself some food right away before he did anything else. He had a huge smile on his face and his eyes lit up. 

If I knew nothing about this man - had never seen him before and saw him crying on the side of an apartment building, I would have felt a sadness. But I know I wouldn’t have talked to him about his troubles or helped him in any way. I likely would have been frightened of him and judged him… maybe he is on drugs… or an alcoholic (mind you this was not the case with this man), or maybe he beat his wife and they divorced and she got the house and now he is on the streets. 

Why would those judgements come to my mind? 

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The stories we tell ourselves about other people often have zero basis. They are distorted and toxic. For our close friends and family; we may know some - or a lot about them but we still don’t know what exactly has shaped them or who they will be tomorrow. When it comes to people whom we’ve never met or just met; the raw truth is that we have no idea what they have been through in their life - or what they are going through right now. We don’t know if they have had multiple neck surgeries, or battled cancer, or lost their parent(s) in an accident, or fought in a war and saw their friends die, or that they've been sexually abused, or lost their home in a fire, or a multitude of real life things that we like to think only happens to us or our family or that those types of extraordinary circumstances are only for the movies. Where do we think the ideas for movies come from?  

Why do we tell ourselves negative stories and illusions about others?

Why do we assume the woman sitting alone at a bar is cheating on her husband and not that she is taking a break while traveling and it’s less lonely to sit up at the bar than a table by yourself and she’s having soda water with lemon - not a cocktail - oh, and  she is texting her kids and husband - not the made up man who will be meeting her - and cheating on his wife. 

Why do we assume the couple next to us in a car are having a horrible fight because of their facial expressions and gestures and not talking about a movie that they saw last night? 

Why do we think the older man working as a waiter at a restaurant didn’t go to college? Or, has limited options? Perhaps he was in finance and discovered it really wasn’t for him and is now taking night classes at a Culinary Institute. Perhaps his son fell ill and he dropped everything he was doing to cover for him so that his son didn’t lose his job. Or, perhaps, he is the owner. 

Why do we look at an overweight man and assume that he is lazy, doesn’t work out, and doesn’t eat well rather than considering that perhaps he has a medical condition - or two - mixed with some genes that cause him to predisposed to obesity. Maybe he is extremely active, does workout, and eats well. Maybe he tries. Maybe he tries more than anyone you know to be fit and thin. Maybe he has tried every diet in the book. Maybe he has even had gastric bypass surgery. Maybe not. Maybe… this is simply the way he was born. Maybe… he is happy with his body.

Why do we look at a skinny woman and tell ourselves that she is probably anorexic - or addicted to exercise or drugs and hates her life and family. Or, all of the above. Oh, she is probably a bitch too and has no life other than avoiding food and exercising. Instead of thinking that maybe… maybe she was born with a wicked high metabolism. Perhaps she doesn’t even work out regularly and eats like a french woman. Maybe, she is super self-conscious of the fact that she is not as curvy  as some of her friends. Maybe she is ill. Maybe, she has tried to gain weight. Maybe, she has tried to gain weight because of the judgements that she has received. 

Why don’t we think about the fact that everyone has real world shit going on in their life just like we do? People’s loved ones die. And so, they don’t care when they run to the grocery store in their wear-at-home-only sweatpants and should-be-thrown-away flip flops to pick up a few things because what they really care about is making sure their brother’s will is honored.  

Everyone has drama and trauma. People get into accidents. They fall ill. They lose jobs, relationships, homes, and cars. They have hardships. They have others around them that have hardships - which can in turn become a hardship for them. 

I've never met anyone who was on Cloud 9 all of the time. I chat with my dearest friends and I love hearing about their joys, loves, and excitements but inevitably there are hardships, quarrels, questions, and all of the other life stressors that happen. To all of us. No one escapes stress. Stress does not discriminate. Yes, some may have it seemingly more or worse than others - but it's present. For everyone. Every single day. Most of us experience days where feel amazing, days where we’re on a high, smiling, walking with a bounce in our stride, other days  where we cruise neutral, and others where the day is massively challenging… hard… dark… days where we feel despair. 

And what about those days or moments where we do feel like we are on Cloud 9? Do we really care about what others around us think about what we are doing, saying, or wearing?

When I'm on Cloud 9, I'm not thinking about the possibility of judgements. I'll swing at the playground and laugh and run around and not care that I am a grown adult playing like a child. When I'm on Cloud 9, I'm not worried about if people are judging me at Whole Foods when my boyfriend and I are acting totally silly. When I'm on Cloud 9, I couldn't care less if my clothes match when I run to the store after a long and glorious day on the lake - kissed by the sun and high on life. 

Yet, I'm certain that in those circumstances - when I'm on Cloud 9, others do judge me. And, I'm certain that I have judged them. 

So, we can't be happy and on Cloud 9 or in despair or anything in between without being judged. 

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To try and make sense of this dynamic, I can't help but think that protection plays a fundamental role in the incessant need to judge. Judging others to make ourselves feel better about ourself isn't what I'm talking about here. It's a true protection mechanism within us. If something is marked red it likely means stop. If something is steaming -it's likely hot. If there is lightening then static electricity is likely high. If the wind is whipping and there are white caps then we likely won't put the boat out on the water. We've learned to judge situations throughout our entire lives. We judge situations. We make judgement calls. Usually we do this to protect ourselves. To literally keep ourselves safe. 

So, do we judge other people as we do situations? Do we judge other people for our own livelihood? 

Our brains seemed to have missed the fact that people are not situations. One cannot simply look at a person and know who they are and what they are about. We are each made up of approximately 37.2 trillion cells. This, is a commonality amongst a trillion other differences. There is much to learn about each-other. 

So keep your circle small if you must (I do) but may we all know that red does not always mean stop. 

Who Are You? Who Am I?

"But, that's what you have always done."

"But, you always use to like to do that."

"But, you have always liked that kind of music."

"But, you always eat those kind of cookies."

"But, you have always done [ FILL IN THE BLANK ] "

Have you ever had someone say something along those lines to you? Or, have you ever said them to someone else? 

I would be shocked if you said no to either of those questions. 

We preach that we need to grow and change yet... when it comes down to it, most people are uncomfortable when someone around them grows and changes. Particularly those that are closest to them such a spouse, parent, best friend or sibling. 

Despite the intense (and often obsessive) desire we have to change our ways, get out of our element, out of comfort zone, and live our lives just a little bit... different.. maybe a little bit... better, we are change adverse creatures. And not only that, we are often 'change blockers.' 

I am not a psychologist so bare with me as I run through my thoughts. 

We become accustom to knowing someone in one way that we have a difficult time accepting when they mature, grow, and change. When they take steps to 'better themselves,' or when they simply start to like new things,  take up a different hobbies, drop other hobbies or habits, and explore other ways of living life, we (the other person) has a difficult time accepting that change. 

Some, straight up refuse to accept the change... have you ever gone back to a place where you grew up or spent time as an adolescent and inevitably the people there still believe that you love the things that you loved and participate in the same activities as you did when you were... oh say... about 12 years-old? 

Though perhaps more dispiriting and often more damaging than those moments are the day-to-day moments when someone feels unable or not allowed, or unsafe to change because of the response they receive from the people around them. And not just acquaintances - these are typically the people who are closest to them. That is where the real dagger strikes - this is where the open-space of love and acceptance from a place of truth and respect turns into a closed-space of suffocation and dismissal usually from a place of denial, misunderstanding, or even jealousy. The person trying or seeking change will likely feel boxed in and unworthy, and often, unfortunately, begin to second guess and doubt themselves. 

"Well, I guess I'll just do what I have always done...Stick to status quo," they may think..."this is how I am loved and accepted right now. What would it be like if I were different?" What they (we) are not usually thinking is that when they change ourselves for the better they are embraced even more fully than we were before - yet there is that period of time that is messy... scary... disorienting... and disheartening. Sometimes, we are forced to let go of those that don't fit our new lifestyle or who won't accept our changed ways. 

I'll take diet as a relatively easy and common example of change.  

"So hun, I think I'm going to switch to low-carb diet. I really think I'm going to cut out refined sugar for a while too. And, I don't think I'll drink alcohol for some time either. I just feel I need to clean up my diet a bit. Eat more lean protein, less sugary snacks, and more veggies." 

One would think that the other would be delighted. And surely not for 'Keeping up with Joneses,' but rather because their partner is choosing to honor their body and are making an effort to give themselves a bit of self-love and feel better. They are respecting themselves. 

Yet, this is not always the response that occurs. They think to themselves... "well I do eat cookies. I do eat carbs. I frickin' love white potatoes. And beer. And thick juicy steak!"

They mistakenly think... "given their change, what will I have to change?"  What is not recognized (usually) is that the other person doesn't have to change a damn thing! The other person was simply voicing their proposed change most likely because voicing change/action makes it feel more real. That, and perhaps most importantly,  they are seeking support.

Mind you, these are not always strikingly positive or negative changes... they are simply.. change. 

"I don't really feel I want to crochet any more ... I really think that I may then take up photography. I've been thinking about taking a coarse in it." This coming from someone who has crocheted for over half of their life may come as a shock to the people that are closest to them. 

Instead of support, the other person may think, 'how will this effect me? how will our schedule change... how will I change? How will we change?' Or, 'where is this stemming from? What has happened for them to want suddenly change their ways?' And often, 'is something wrong with them?' 

Photo by Daniel Bowman, Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Bowman, Unsplash

On that note... 

We (people) become so deeply tied to the things we do that we identify ourselves with that 'thing' rather than being who we are separate from things that we do - who we are becomes the things that we do. 

I am a yogi. 

I am a hiker. 

I am a runner. 

I am a cook. 

I am a writer. 

What happens to a yogi when they for some reason cannot or decide to not do yoga? They decide to start kick-boxing or they injure their back. Who are they without yoga? Or a runner who has ran consistently their entire adult life has to slow their role and switch to walking because their knees cannot handle the force of the runners stride. Who are they if they are not a runner? A writer who cannot write due to a stroke... who are they now? 

Suddenly, there is an identity crisis. 

This happens many times throughout our lives. A scholar of History whose entire career thus far has been studies, enters the workforce as a sales associate at a software company. An owner of a Bed & Breakfast of 30 years, sells their property. A dentist of 40 years, retires. A horse rider of 20 years, decides to stop riding to travel and explore their growing interest in cultural studies.  

The reasons are not always clear. Sometimes, we don't even know the reason(s) for a significant life change. Sometimes, it is simply a want or desire to feed another passion. Or, the former passion no longer 'feeds our soul.' Other times, the reason(s) are more concise. Retirement. Physical conditions. Environmental surroundings such as a skier moving to Florida. 

At times, we may even devalue ourselves when we don't do the things that we use to do - because of the high value we once placed on them. 

My point, is that when we tie ourselves to what we do with such conviction that it becomes who we are, we risk an identity crisis. 

I am not a yogi.

Currently, I do yoga. 

Embracing who we are without the things that we do and knowing who we are without the things that we do has the ability to bring grounding despite the changes in and around us.

Photo by Morgan McBride, Unsplash 

Photo by Morgan McBride, Unsplash 

As tree (yes, I am anthropomorphizing) who weathers a storm, and has core that stands unwavering when it's branches are shaking, bending, and even breaking. And endure seasons of change, even changing of colors, and sometimes, stranding bare with no leaves and awaiting the sun of the next season where they will begin to bud and blossom once again. 

Title Unknown - That is the Title

It has been a long while since my last post. At least to me, nearly four months is a loooong time to not be writing - or rather  publishing something that is not work related (but isn't it all? More on that later...)

My life is radically different than it was six months ago.

In less than a year, I have fallen madly in love with the a humble, sexy, and strong man. And I do not mean strong merely in the physical sense. The man I have fallen in love one with is strong intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. I have moved across the country (again, making this my 6th cross-country move in three years). Not only have I moved across the country, but I have moved in with this man that I have the honor of calling my boyfriend.

This is him.  

This is him.  

For the first time in over 6 years, I am sharing my life with someone. But perhaps more beautiful, more significant, more juicy than that - for the first time in my life, I am openly and peacefully sharing my life with another person - something that I was not sure I would be able to do (or would want to for that matter). I quite liked being single. Though something I have come to learn is that while there are inevitably sacrifices in a relationship, I still live my life the way that I choose to live my life. I still do all of things that I enjoy doing - the things that make me ... me. Things like yoga, jogging, walking, hiking, farmers markets, cooking, writing, and meditation.

I have come to learn that in a relationship - perhaps one of the most paramount things that we need to remember is that what attracted the other person to us is who we are. As soon as we lose sight of the things that make us - us - OUR passions, OUR dreams, OUR goals, we begin to morph into something that neither person can recognize or genuinely and whole heartily love.

Something that I have come to learn in my thirty years here on Earth, is that in a healthy relationship, we add to one another's happiness. We do not solely create it. We are not responsible for the other person's happiness - and they are not responsible for ours. In a healthy relationship, we build more passions, more dreams, more goals - we don't let go of our own. This isn't to say that when something is not serving us well anymore - say an adolescent passion or an unreasonably lofty goal, that we shouldn't let that go. Goals that we have outgrown or evolved beyond most certainly need to be adjusted or completely eliminated. But that is an individual decision. Happiness is an individual choice. One of the things that attracted me to the man that I am with - is that, like me, he had made a distinct decision to choose happiness in his life.

As if falling in love, cohabiting, and moving across the country wasn't enough of a change, I have also started work with a new company. A SaaS technology company that is doing some seriously awesome things in the Digital Asset Management space. 

Most of us wish we could be "retired." We want to tromp around in the woods, frolic in open fields, lounge alongside open seas, and travel to our hearts to content - we talk about these idyllic circumstances with our significant others and friends. We dream of days with no plans, no schedules, no commitments, no deadlines. We celebrate "hump day," carry smiles on "it's almost Friday Thursday's," and act like kindergarteners headed out for recess on Friday's. We fantasize about afternoon siestas and exploring foreign lands and not.... working.

Yet paradoxically, most of us actually enjoy working. Not rudimentary or mundane work - actual work. Work that helps to create balance in our lives and fulfill an element of our health that nothing else can fulfill. Work that is challenging - mentally and often times also physically. Work that allows us to use our brains and our bodies. Work that at the end of the day, we feel we made a difference. Work that makes us feel that what we did all day mattered - that we are valued and provide value. 

Whether you are drilling for oil or you are taking the redeye flight after a week of international meetings, both are taxing on your body. Both require mental and physical exertion. To be meaningfully rewarded financially, emotionally, progressively - time, energy, and dedication need to be put it - with a sense of purpose and pride. Time away from families. Time away from our other passions. Time away from days with no plans.

Whether an owner of a coffee shop or an architect - a logger or a software engineer - a fishing guide or a CEO - a ski instructor or a chef, there is real opportunity to love the shit out of what they do. Each profession so wildly different yet each one has the potential to bring great satisfaction. Similar to a relationship, work that you are passionate about adds to your happiness. It does not define it.

Can you develop passion for something? I believe that passion can be developed over time through a process of self-discovery, finding your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and confusions -  and continuing to build upon knowledge and skills. I believe some things that we are passionate about come to us innately and others we have the ability to create, build, and excel in. 

I heard a quote once, that I'll end with: 

"Discover what it is that you desire to do. Listen to your body and mind as you stress it in different ways. Distill that to its essence." 
-Author Unknown

Here's to the next six months. 

With love,

AEBailey

Living in New York City is like Golf

I have come to the conclusion that living in NYC is like golf. 

Admittedly, I am not an avid golfer, yet this analogy has been spinning around in my head for the past few weeks so I decided to entertain it. 

I say that I am not an avid golfer, and this is true, but I have played the game. And that's exactly what I see NYC as - a game. 

Bear with me here. 

My Dad (an actual avid golfer) once told me a long time ago that playing golf is one of the most unnatural sports in terms of the physical positioning of your body and particularly, the swing itself. 

When the analogy of 'NYC is like golf' kept playing in my head, I Google'd to see if there were any facts or quotes about golf being unnatural.

I found a couple, which was enough for me to know my Dad is not the only one who has had this sentiment about the golf swing being an unnatural motion.   

Brad Faxon, an American professional golfer, and an eight-time PGA Tour winner, said "The golf swing is among the most stressful and unnatural acts in sports, (short of cheering for the Yankees)."

And Cindy Reid, author of, Get Yourself in Golf Shape: Exercise Drills to Build a Strong Swing...stated: "A good golf swing is not a 'natural' athletic move, like throwing a ball, or stroking a tennis forehand. In fact, a golf swing is one of the most unnatural motions in sports."

Like golf, NYC is one of the most unnatural ways to live that I have ever experienced. Actually, it is the most unnatural way that I have ever lived. And like golf, NYC is a complex beast, though may look simple - or even effortless to an onlooker.

Photo Credit: Edewaa Foster, Unsplash

Photo Credit: Edewaa Foster, Unsplash

Below I will make an effort to articulate the ways in which I believe golf is unnatural. 

  1. You're in an outdoor setting (that is usually quite beautiful), yet you are getting from point A to point B via a golf cart rather than walking
  2. You have everything you need in a large bag, and proper shoes are essential 
  3. In a straightforward definition of golf on Wikipedia, "In golf, players use clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as possible" 
  4. Players are attempting to have the lowest score - that is get the ball in the hole in the lowest amount of strokes possible 
  5. Most golf courses have 18 holes, yet some have 9 and can be played twice-through in order to have a full round of golf 
  6. The stance. You're bowed at the waist, yet your back is straight and your shoulders are tall. Your feet are shoulder width apart yet your knees are slightly bent and the majority of your weight is on the balls of your feet and your left hip is slightly higher than your right. In what other life circumstance are you standing this way? 
  7. The swing. You have to train your body to be able to properly set up for the swing. Which is actually a simple motion. However, that is not to say that it's easy. For anyone who has played the game, this unnatural way of standing and swinging, is quite challenging. And the stance is, of course, much more complex than I described - now add in positioning of your chin, feet, and gripping your hands around a titanium/steel/graphite club (aka iron or wood). 
  8.  While there is a long list of mechanics to the game golf, one is taking this club/rod and attempting to hit a small spherical (usually white) aerodynamic ball into a small hole off a tee (a tiny stationary support for the first stroke from each hole)

The Physics of the Golf Swing: The figure above shows a strobe picture taken of Bobby Jones golf swing, in the 1940s (source: http://www.clubmaker-online.com/bj003.gif)

Cindy Reid goes on to say about setting up for the swing: 

"Does anything about that sound 'easy?' Of course not. Everything about the golf swing fights your natural instincts. You hit down on the ball in order for it to go up. You swing the club right of the target in order for the ball to curve left. You must remove tension from your hands and arms in order to strike the ball harder and hit it farther. Pros stand tall while hitting a stationary object sitting on the ground, and they rotate their shoulders around a reasonably straight spine...But accomplished golfers have trained their bodies to create these unnatural motions...The golf swing is simple, but golf is the hardest game in the world at which to excel - much less, dare I say, master." 

This quote beautifully sums up how I feel about living in New York City.   

Photo Credit: Brook Cagle, Unsplash

Let's break it down. 

Nothing about living in New York City is easy. Everything about NYC fights your natural instincts. You ride the subway down in order to go up. You walk to the right of the person in order for the other person to move left in an ongoing game of move-out-of-the-fucking-way. You must remove tension from your hands and arms in order to work harder and go farther. Pros stand tall while hitting their keyboards riding on the subway, and they rotate their eyes around to watch for shady activity...But accomplished New Yorkers have trained their bodies  (and minds) to create these unnatural acts...Living in NYC is simple, but NYC is the hardest city in the world at which to excel - much less, dare I say, master.

So to parallel the points I made about golf, below I will make an effort to articulate the ways in which I believe living in NYC is unnatural. 

  1. You are in a city setting, yet you are getting from point A to point B via a subway, taxi, or bus rather than walking or driving your own car. Yes, New Yorkers do walk a lot but the 'daily commute' is typically via public transportation. To go 6 miles takes around 45 minutes - and that's if the trains are running on time. 
  2. You carry everything you need in one or two large bags, and proper shoes for walking and getting disgusting are essential (and your other shoes are packed in one of your bags)
  3.  New Yorkers take the least amount of trains with the least amount of stops possible. It's never a mere 'let's go get some groceries.' No, it's an entire event. Getting groceries depends upon the weather, which train station you'll hop on, if there are any transfers, and how many bags you can possibly carry on your person. 
  4. New Yorkers attempt to live in the most idyllic numbers and boroughs as quickly and seamlessly as possible - that is get into the best borough in the least amount of moves possible 
  5. Most boroughs have your own neighborhood cafe, market, and park, yet some have 2 or 3 and can be frequented all in the same day in order to have a full day of quintessential NY
  6. You walk half of a block to pick up your coffee, then go down some stairs to wait for a subway that will take you to another part of the city. If your in rush hour, then you are standing there with your life on your shoulder (or back), coffee in hand, headphones plugged in blasting your most zen music, and trying to read your book, twitter feed, or local paper. On the pole that is keeping you upright, your hand is crammed up against another person's that you don't know and let's face it - probably don't want to know. And your trying to not think about how your leg is crammed up against someone's knee. In what other life circumstance are you standing this way? 
  7. You have to train your body and your mind to be able to properly set up for the swing of the NYC lifestyle. Which is actually simple. However, that is not to say that it's easy. For anyone who has played the game of NY, this unnatural way of living and not breathing, is quite challenging. And the life is, of course, much more complex than I described - now add in trying to breath in fresh air, make friends, and get to any sort of nature that is not contaminated by destruction or pollution.
  8.  While there is a long list of the ins-and-outs to New York life,  one is taking their body and mind and attempting to 'make it' amongst all of the others that have the same goal with a slightly different purpose. Trying to get their very own and uniquely shaped ball off a tee and into a corner office - in the least amount of years - with their favorite market down below and park in view so that they can get a glimpse of the natural world while they work incessantly in the unnatural.

Photo Credit: Björn Simon, Unsplash

Perhaps there is a reason why I am not an avid golfer or a 'true' New Yorker. But, I am grateful to have tried them both so that I can feel that much more belonging in my natural state - and in the natural world. 

-AeBailey
Not a New Yorker, tee'ing off for the next fairway

Humans are Naturally Insane

Insanity. 

Below is what the definition is not: 

"Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results," loosely quoted by the great theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein. 

Although, I do believe that the notion of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is also a quality that is intrinsic to humans. Just think of children getting into shenanigans, or your habits that you incessantly try to break. Or the goals you continuously attempt to achieve and come to similar roadblocks every single time. 

But what I am referring to is the 'true' definition of insanity. 

Important note: I am not referring to the criminally insane, so for the sake of the sanity of this post let's leave the criminals locked up. 

So let's take a look at some of the definitions of insanity - or rather the root word insane

  • Immoderate; wild
  • Very foolish; absurd
  • Mentally deranged; crazy; of unsound mind
  • Utterly senseless; irrational
  • In a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction
  • (Of an action or policy) extremely foolish; irrational or illogical

(From The Free Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries )

Some synonymous of insane: 

Mad, bananas, bonkers, crazy, ridiculous, irrational, nuts, off your rocker, bizarre, wild, nonsensical, lunatic, unbalanced, loco, silly, batshit crazy (probably my favorite)

What then is is the opposite? Or, the antonyms? 

Sane, rational, logical, normal, sensible

Are we all born rational, sane, and logical? Are we all born... normal? Is this what we are striving for? Is this what we wish to teach our children? To not be but to conform? 

Normal is a learned state of being. Normal is learned way or living. Normal is not... natural

How often are we not afraid to get to know another human, but rather to let them get to know us? Let them in to see the dusty nooks and crannies of our own minds. Revealing to them all of the things about us that make us ... us. And yet, they would not be drawn to us in the first place if we weren't who we are as an individual. If we did not embody our quirkiness. I have seen this time and time again in romantic relationships. People start losing themselves and begin to let go of who they are to blend more into the other person's life and then they begin to bump heads - they begin to question what they ever saw in the person. They have both changed so much and let go of who they really are that they fall out of love or lose attraction for one another. 

The most uneasy I have felt around another person is when I can't pick up on who they are - as if they are not comfortable with who they are - they can't be alone with themselves and they haven't yet relaxed into their-self enough to be content with everything that makes them ... them. 

I can't help but think about some of the most influential people in history - and of course this is just a tiny fraction but I think of people like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Lao Tsu, Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, Babe Ruth, Sigmund Freud,  Leonardo da Vinci, Amadeus Mozart, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, and Gandhi.

No, I did not personally know any of these people (although I do think I knew Janis Joplin in another life but that is another post entirely), but I don't think normal or even sane are words that we would use to describe any of them. 

Brilliant, eccentric, bold, unconventional, extraordinary, profound, provocative. 

 These are some of the words I would use to describe many of our great influencers. 

Jim Morrison, The Lizard King

So perhaps some of us more than others - or more accurately, some of us show it more than others, but I believe that we all have a little madness. That we are all a bit insane. That we are all just a little... batshit crazy. 

Here's to insanity,

Relish in yours, and allow me to relish in mine.  

-AeBailey 

 

Adaptability

I have moved five times in the last three years and have had a handful of different jobs. So far in my life, I have lived in eleven different towns ranging from very small villages - nearly off the grid to large cities, and sometimes relocated several different times within the same city. In addition, I have had extended stays for weeks and sometimes months at other people's homes or hotels along the way. Not to mention the 14 months of my youth that I spent at a lockdown behavioral correctional facility (Meet 'Desperately Seeking The 60s Flower Child' - ahem, Yours Truly, in the early 2000s). 

Through this, I have discovered that I seem to have an innate ability to adapt to my environment. Like a chameleon, I can change my color depending on where I am in the world. But what I have found to be critical in navigating adaptability is walking my truth regardless of whether I am walking on a dirt road or a city sidewalk. Staying true to myself, my core, my roots - staying grounded in who I am whether I am wearing my flannel, jeans, and Sperry boat-shoes or my black slacks, silk blouse, and Gucci heels. 

After-all, a chameleon doesn't change it's insides , characteristics, or behavior - the change is reflected externally. In fact, I just learned while writing this that the chameleon doesn't change color due to surroundings per se but rather as a means of communicating it's emotions

Not to say that it isn't HARD (sometimes it is massively difficult!) to uproot and change environments, or that that there isn't an adjustment period or a moment(s) of complete shock. The key for me is knowing that I am right where I need to be in the world and trusting that the decisions I have made have been exactly what I need at any given time. The times where I have felt the most uncertain and chaotic are times when I have lost trust in myself and doubted my judgement. 

It doesn't matter where I am in the world, there are still things that I include in my daily life that make me feel... more me. Yoga, writing, walking, meditation, nature, nutrition dense foods, music... without these rituals and elements, I slowly become more detached from my higher-self and higher-power. 

From a palm-tree filled back yard in West Palm Beach to a building rooftop in Philadelphia, to a wide open deck in Bar Harbor to my (cozy) shoebox bedroom in Brooklyn, I lay my mat down and all is well in the world. 

My point - is that I may have different experiences and surrounded by vastly different environments, but the way that I live my life (with some tweaks along the way) remain the same. I still lay around for hours on the weekends listening to music and writing - coffee by my side - followed by long walks, farmers markets, meeting friends, yoga... No matter where I am, I love to 'see what I see, and do what I do.' And regardless of whether I am in a 9-5 or setting my own hours, on the weekday mornings I sip lemon water, get some exercise or journaling and reading in (depending on the day) and then begin my work for the day, usually followed by yoga and ending with meditation. Put me in the woods or above the subway - I am still ME. 

I'll end with song by Eddie Vedder, possibly one of my favorite soloists of all time. It's beautifully thought-provoking and humbling - and helps to keep me sane on my commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Even while jam packed into the train like a sardine - there is still a calm in my heart. 

 

"Society"
(originally by Jerry Hannan)

It's a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all, you won't be free

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me

When you want more than you have, you think you need
And when you think more than you want, your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
Cause when you have more than you think, you need more space

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you're not lonely without me

There's those thinking more or less, less is more
But if less is more, how you keepin score?
Means for every point you make your level drops
Kinda like you're startin' from the top
And you can't do that

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
Society, you're crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me

The times in my life where I have felt the most fulfilled, grateful, and that abundance is all around me, is when I have less - when my life is completely downsized - and even when my income has shrank (or diminished). 

When just about everything you own is packed into a car or a room and you realize you still have more than you need - it's at that moment you feel truly blessed. 

So go ahead and walk about. Feed your rat (an expression I picked up in Australia, meaning "feed your adventure"). 

Carry peace with you amid the chaos but don't ever fear the chaos for it will rip through you no matter where you are in the world. Just keep standing your ground. 

- AeBailey 

 

 

To Be Idle: Embracing Stillness

This weekend I am quite bummed that I needed to cancel all of my yoga classes and miss my walks to Farmers Markets due to a knee injury. To say that I was looking forward to my leisurely, yet active weekend is an understatement. I recently returned back New York City from three weeks of traveling in Colorado to see family and spend the holidays in the winter wonderland of the Rockies and San Jauns - and while the journey was amazing - I was ready to 'get back into the swing of things' and get back into my workout routine. 

"The Wilsons," San Jaun Mountains outside of Telluride Colorado 

Being still is a challenge for me. It's true that I speak of stillness often. Yet, most of the ways in which I achieve stillness in my mind is through movement. Hiking, walking, jogging, yoga...

While I find much peace and clarity in physically active meditations, sitting meditations have taken a backseat in my life recently and perhaps it's time that I begin to embrace them more.

My recent trip to Colorado was beautiful in many ways. Colorado - the West - the mountains - holds a special place in my heart. And it was wonderful to spend time with my family and discover a relationship that I didn't see coming (yes, that's right, single no more! <3).

Yet, the visit was also very challenging for me. Emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I know that am not the only one who feels a disruption when they 'go back home.' And certainly, around the holidays. Especially when the holidays (or season) may bring back painful memories. When your the visitor, you are often somewhat dependent on others' time and schedules, you're in someone else's space and home and no matter how comfortable you may feel with them - it's still not yours. And while it's certainly healthy to step away from your life to gain perspective and new experiences, it can be downright hard to be out of your element. At least, it is for me. 

Perhaps the Universe was supporting me in slowing down this past Friday by tripping me full force into the cement on my morning run. Bringing me to a halt and begging me to slow my roll, pay attention to what is right in front of me, take care of my body, and appreciate all that my body does for me every single second of my precious life. 

 

I think of this now. Yet in that moment. That moment where I was laying on the ground unsure if I could get up and walk with the blow to me knee - after the alarms went off in my head "you don't have health insurance," my next thought was "great, now you are going to gain weight and be out of shape right when you were gearing up to do the exact opposite." Ha! 

There are people all over the world - this very minute - who are grieving the recent loss of a loved one, mourning a terrible breakup and heartache, dealing with paralysis or missing body parts, stricken with incurable disease and illness - and there I laid, worrying about how I was going to stay fit when I am temporarily unable to use my leg. 

"How very vain," I thought to myself. "How ego driven are you to not appreciate this body you have and all that it does for you?"

When I returned back to NYC from Colorado, I felt as though I had just traveled overseas. My body was tired. My mind off balance. My thoughts scattered. My energy anxious. Even so, I  was upset that in three weeks of travel I was thrown out of my workout routine and pissed that I allowed myself to get off track - I told myself that I needed to work extra hard to get back to 'my norm.'

All the while during my travel, I was eating some delicious food that I never would have had otherwise, spent time with my wonderful family that - on any given day - I miss so much it hurts, breathed in the fresh mountain air, snowshoed on a mesa in the San Juans, and commenced an extraordinary bond with a beautiful... beautiful man that I can now call "my boyfriend" (insert giddy face here). 

Left to right: Me, my beautiful sister, and her husband at Linger in Denver. 

Yet during those days that were so rare and unique - I was so consumed of poor thoughts about my body-image, lack of proper employment, distressed about the goals that I didn't achieve (like publishing some of my work, landing my dream job, getting certifications, taking classes), ruminating about the choices that I had made, and uneasy about my new romantic feelings for someone ... that I didn't allow myself to fully rest. I couldn't write, read, enjoy a meal, go for a leisurely walk, practice yoga, or watch a movie without my heart nearly pumping out of chest with thoughts of all of the other things that I should have been doing to 'be more productive.' 

Was I completely miserable? No, absolutely not. But, I wasn't my peaceful and calm self. I allowed my energy to become crowded with fear and worry and I didn't give myself the space and time that I needed to get my zen on. 

I told myself that the trip was going to be about relaxing, recharging, being present, and letting go. Do things like take hours in the morning to do nothing and listen to song after song,  basking in the peacefulness and safety of family, friends and the majestic surroundings that Colorado has to offer - contrasting my life in New York. I did the opposite. 

Instead of taking the time to reflect on all of that magic that my trip offered, I went full force into beating up my body. Instead of giving myself some grace, it was: Go. Go. Go. Walk. Run. Yoga. Repeat. Wake up and get 'back into your life.' Rush. Rush. Rush. And taking little time (aside from in yoga) to breathe and reflect. 

The morning of the first Friday I was back, my body was sore. I wanted to go back to sleep. My alarm rang. It was still dark. It was cold. Despite this, I put my running gear on and blasted out only to come crashing down into the cement. 

I do not see the fact that I am here on my futon elevating my leg with an ice pack on my knee as punishment - no, I see it as an opportunity. 

An opportunity to do some of things that I set out today while I was 'on vacation.'

Things like: writing, reading, dreaming, resting, reflecting, watching movies, listening to music, and just... chilling the fuck out. 

 

So this evening, I will meditate in the stillness of my yoga mat and offer up gratitude to all the people and circumstances around me that make my life a blessing. 

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
- T.S. Eliot

 

I am so very grateful for all of the teachers and supporters that I have in my life. From yoga instructors near and far, fellow yogis, colleagues, friends, family, my beloved nephews, acquaintances... and now my incredibly handsome, sexy, intelligent, and inspiring boyfriend. 

Namaste, 

-AeBailey 

Pondering the Notion of Home: What and where is it?

What happens... when a home you once knew doesn't feel like home anymore? 

What is truly meant by 'home is where the heart is?' 

What if you're home isn't where you were born, or where you grew up, or where your immediate family is?

Does your past have an influence on the evolution of where you consider home? Where exactly are ones roots? Where they are born? Where they grew up? What about where their ancestors are from? Perhaps a land that they have yet to see...

What I have learned is that, to me, home is where I feel that I am free. Free to be me. Home is where I go to heal. Home is where I feel peaceful. 

 

Given that, is home then something that is 'housed' by your mind?

When we have made peace with our past - is it then that a home we once knew... may feel like home again?

Is there truly a physical aspect to home? Does what it's physically made up of, brick, log, steel... make a difference? Does geography, mountains.. ocean.. city become a factor to where one feels at home? Or, the elements, rainy, sunny, snowy. Or is it where you're people are? And who are your people? Your family? Friends? Both...? What if you don't feel at home where your family or 'old' friends reside?

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

Or maybe... maybe... we have multiple homes. Emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Maybe it's our spirit. 

 Source: @GirlGoneIntl

Maybe home is not where the heart is but where the spirit feels the most at peace. 

Maybe... we build homes and plant roots wherever and whenever we feel free. 

Where is home to you?

-AeBailey

Fifty Shades of Orthorexia: Including Grey

Those of you that know me, know that I am equipped with an extreme personality. Grey is hard for me. Middle is hard for me. Subtle is hard for me. Waiting is hard for me. In between is hard for me. Balance…is hard for me.

*Note: Fair-warning that many of my paragraphs and sentences in this post will begin with an I. 

You’ll either find me with my phone in hand, ever-connected, or, I am nowhere to be found with my phone on Airplane mode accessing only the camera and notepad.

I either have my music on the loudest decibel or I am relishing in complete silence. 

I am either involved in one activity after another – working, jogging, yoga, hiking, cooking, cleaning, errands – or I am laying in savasana doing absolutely nothing.

I am either teetoll’ing it, or I am indulging in a few (or several) nightly cocktails.

I am either fully committed to one man, sharing my life with him, and opening my heart, or, I am totally single, fiercely independent, with walls of steel. 

I have the ability to thrive in the middle of no where – nestled comfortably in the country – miles from any major city with sounds of roosters and crows peacefully waking me in the dawn hours, or smack dab in the middle a city – downtown amid the around-the-clock sirens, horns, hollers and, screeches.

I am either an Unconventional Cave-Woman Paleo-er… or  a Virtuous Raw Vegan.

I am all natural, or bright hot pink lipstick.

I am an all in... or... all out girl.

I am all black. Or, all white. 

It’s the in between that makes my palms sweat. The middle-sized towns with things like Walmart, Home Depot , car washes, and chain restaurants that are missing the local cafes, mom-and-pop hardware stores, and farmers markets but far away from the cityscapes, fitness studios,  fashion districts,  coffee houses, and Whole Foods.

Obsessions. Extremes. Addictions.

All of these lie at the heart of Orthorexia, an unhealthy fixation on being healthy - specifically eating healthfully.

At this time, the Eating Disorder, Orthorexia is not a recognized as a clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Obsessions and addictions are interrelated and so often serve as distractions - anything to get us outside of ourselves rather than looking (or living…) inward.

To explore this notion of distraction a bit further, watch the video below with Amber Valletta on her struggle with living with addiction.

An eating disorder (ED) is very much like an addiction. When I am active in my eating disorders (Orthorexia and Anorexia), I am all-consuming. Utterly fixated on my food… specific ingredients, where they are sourced, whether or not they are organic, availability (will I be able to get these ‘superfoods’ if I were to travel?),  how clean they are, how much I will eat and at what times, and perhaps the biggest one of all – how it will effect me physically, mentally, and even spiritually (i.e. "will eating this raise or lower my vibration?") 

My addictive personality only amplifies my predisposition
to live in an extreme way.

Coconut is a miracle food? Oh, coconut EVERYTHING! Lip-balm, hair mask, sunscreen, lotion, cooking oil, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut meat, coconut butter, anti-fungal, anti-viral….Ok really coconut is a miracle food but I have taken it to an extreme. And have even been called, “Coconut Head,” on more than one occasion.  Another example would be my most recent rabbit hole, of living as a Fruitarian. Consuming not one, not two, no…not three, but upwards of twenty bananas a day. Yes, twenty. And no fats or protein other than the minuscule amount that is in fruit and vegetables. So this meant no nuts, seeds, or legumes either. On the surface, it was an honest attempt to ‘heal’ my body from illness, disease, and pain. 

Image found on: https://www.facebook.com/WellandGoodNYC/photos/a.175204979693.120205.91915774693/10153660388004694/?type=3&theater

* Note: This is my experience only. I do not believe that all who choose to live a Fruititarian Lifestyle are battle an eating disorder or putting their health at risk.

 

The eating disorder(s) for me, only begin to scratch the surface. Beneath the fixation with food and being the healthiest that I can possibly be, I discovered that it was once again about control (a false sense of) and fear.  When I cut through the bullshit and take a good look back on this year and what sent me deep into the abyss of eating disorder insanity, the situation became very clear to me.

Earlier this year (2015), I felt scared. I felt defeated and helpless. And, I didn’t want anyone to know. Especially myself.

*Note: I have learned that denial with oneself can perhaps be the most damaging form of self-sabotage

Events that prompted my (recent) ED relapse:

*Note: This is not to BLAME any of these circumstances – these were stressors that occurred and triggered my Eating Disorder Demon

  1. Change in positions at place of employment
  2. Frequent travel for work
  3. Being laid off
  4. Unemployment
  5. Selling/giving away belongings
  6. Moving out of my apartment
  7. Moving to a different city/town (3 times)
I was numb to my emotions and went on autopilot (survival mode).
 

I didn't admit ... to anyone that I didn’t feel ‘OK,’ that I may need some help… Instead, I ran. I left where I was living and went back to to a place that felt safe and comfortable. Mind you, at the time, I thought that this was the best thing for me and it took a massive amount of strength. It is important to note (for myself) that I don’t regret this decision. I can’t imagine if I did not do the things that I did to take care of myself. The friends and connections I made – the epiphanies I experienced – the highs and lows – I know that I have been right where I need to be through it all.

I have learned that people (myself included) are doing the best that they can with the knowledge and resources that they have at the time.

While the debate is still out whether addiction is a disease, it is in fact, a mental illness. I am of the opinion that it is both. Addiction is complex, and wildly difficult to treat. 

 

While my intention wasn't to write about addiction - I feel that the behavioral aspect of addiction is so closely tied to that of Orthorexia, that I simply can't write about one without acknowledging the other. It seems that the word 'addiction' or 'addict' has a common connotation of drugs.. alcohol.. sex... gambling... but what about everything else? What about being addicted to things that are seemingly healthy?  Exercise, health foods, detoxing, cleansing, cleaning, working... even things like cooking, fishing, knitting... seemingly harmless - joyful activities can become an addiction. 

I'm reminded of an article that I read on Goop, "Why We're All Addicts." The article is so on point, that I could quote it all - so I implore you to give it a read. Though, below is an excerpt.

“Addiction is inside you no matter how far your soul has evolved.
The truth is that each one of us possesses the same attributes that fuel alcoholic binges, restrictive eating patterns, and marital infidelity. Yes, addiction is inside you no matter how far your soul has evolved. It resides in your psyche and binds you together with all other addicted beings in the world. Addiction is archetypal. This means that we all share its energy in the unconscious part of our psyche. It is a feeling that we know instinctively and is imprinted in our DNA. We could not shake it if we tried...
So, what is addiction anyway? This is a question that has sparked some debate in recent years. One contingent of prestigious psychologists considers it a genetic disease, while others would argue that it is a learned condition brought on by the trappings of one’s environment. I respectfully disagree with both of these theories. As someone who has faced my own addiction for over 30 years, I have come to know it well. It is my belief that addiction is simply energy. It is energy that flows through the body and lodges itself in the mind. Initially, it saturates the body with a sense of longing and fills the mind with invasive and obsessive thoughts. These repetitive thoughts will not cease until some sort of compulsive act has been committed. Here is an example. There is one homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookie left in the tin and you are thinking about it relentlessly. You have already eaten two and by no means are still hungry but still have the urge to eat the last one. In fact, it is difficult for you to concentrate on anything else until it is in your mouth. You have just succumbed to addiction. Addiction is the inability to control your urges in the face of potentially negative consequences. You are attempting to stay healthy and that cookie does not correspond well with your proposed fitness program. But you couldn’t control yourself so you ate it anyway. When this behavior becomes a pattern, you are in the throes of an addictive cycle...
It is my belief that addiction is simply energy. It is energy that flows through the body and lodges itself in the mind.”
- Dr. Carder Stout

So here we are - faced with choices. Choices of extremes. Choices of balance. Black or white. And if we look close enough, we begin to see the shades. All of these different shades. 

What I a coming to understand is that Grey – grey represents flexibility.
Grey is neither good nor bad.
Me.

Me.

Fifty Shades of Orthorexia


*Note: This list pertains to behaviors, thought patterns, and actions when I am in the depths of my ED (not recovery)

  1. In the depths of my ED, I become numb to feeling, both physically and emotionally
  2. I deprive myself of the nutrients that I need to properly function
  3. Emotionally I shut down to feeling
  4. Eventually,  I am unable to cry
  5. It's difficult for me to relate others
  6. I lack empathy
  7. And physically, with little to no food to digest... or only digesting one type of food (like fruit), one cannot feel the food in their body as much.
  8. You're literally empty inside. 
  9. I become infatuated by this emptiness
  10. And find a certain type of comfort in the nothingness.  
  11. When I succumb to the tight grip of Orthorexia, I lose sense of my roots
  12. I become off balance
  13. I am not grounded
  14. As an Orthorexic, I have a constant need to feel 'pure and clean' 
  15. On the flip side of that desire to feel or be 'pure and clean,' I think that there is a belief deep down inside of me that feels I am 'impure and unclean.' I am working on that.
  16. When I feel impure or unclean, I find it nearly impossible to accept myself
  17. Or love myself
  18. No amount of green juice, salads, fruits, water, herbs, supplements, showers, detoxifying cleaners, yoga, running, or saunas, will make me feel clean or 'detoxed' 
  19. Orthorexia offers a false sense of control
  20.  Restricting my body of nutritions is one of the ways that I punish myself for things that I have not forgiven myself for
  21. Not only do I restrict my body of nutrients, but I will also find ways to deprive myself of other joys in life
  22. Joys such as going out with friends,traveling, having adventures, taking (healthy) risks
  23. Orthorexia becomes a way that I sabotage myself
  24. When Orthorexia is ruling my mind (and life), I act out of fear
  25. And make rash decisions
  26. When Orthorexia is ruling my mind (and life), I am in flight or fight mode
  27. (My) Orthorexic practices provide a false sense of safety
  28. (My) Orthorexic practices provide a false sense of security
  29. Through regimented and methodological behaviors
  30. When Orthorexia is ruling my mind (and life), it's difficult for me to relate to others
  31. Or feel accepted 
  32. Orthorexia becomes a way that I isolate myself 
  33. When Orthorexia is ruling my mind (and life), the way that I eat is not sustainable
  34. And therefore, I have an easy excuse to have to deprive myself
  35. Orthorexia causes me to feel that there is constantly something wrong with my body
  36. Orthorexia is way for me to feel safe in a world full of uncertainties 
  37. Orthorexia fuels my addictive and obsessive personality 
  38. The stress and anxiety of dining out causes me to lose all sense of focus 
  39. Or the ability to stay in the present moment 
  40. Or the ability to truly enjoy the the taste of the food 
  41. Stopping for a quick bite turns into an hour or more of finding something that is suitable based on onerous or impractical requirements  
  42. Because I am not getting the nutrients that I need, I lose all sense of my hunger 
  43. I eat in fear and worry 
  44. My body is so deprived that my mind is consumed with thoughts of food
  45. Thoughts different recipes occupy my mind
  46. I obsessively read about food, recipes, and stare at restaurant menus as though I haven't eaten in days
  47. Because my hunger gauge is off - I become uncertain of my portions. Is this too much food? Not enough? Is this a normal amount to eat for dinner? Should I be having less snacks? More?
  48. I become uncertain at the times of the day that I should eat rather than relying on my hunger cues
  49. And when I do have a mouthful of something that I have deprived myself of - my anxiety sky rockets with worry about what it will do to my body (even if it is something that is known to be healthy like sweet potatoes)
  50. My passion is health, sometimes, I allow my passion to turn into an obsession

Before I close, I'd like to thank Dr. Steven Bratman, who coined the term Orthorexia in 1996, for all of his time and work into the study of Orthorexia. 

"Enthusiasm for healthy eating doesn’t become “orthorexia” until a tipping point is reached and enthusiasm transforms into obsession.
Orthorexia is an emotionally disturbed, self-punishing relationship with food that involves a progressively shrinking universe of foods deemed acceptable. A gradual constriction of many other dimensions of life occurs so that thinking about healthy food can becomes the central theme of almost every moment of the day, the sword and shield against every kind of anxiety, and the primary source of self-esteem, value and meaning. This may result in social isolation, psychological disturbance and even, possibly, physical harm.
To put it another way, the search for healthy eating has become unhealthy."
-Dr. Steven Bratman

In addition to Dr. Bratman, I want to also give a shout out to two brave souls, who have their own story and experiences with Orthorexia, Jordan Younger, The Balanced Blonde creator and author of Breaking Vegan and Maddy Moon, Mind Body Musings creator. They have each been a huge inspiration to me and to others through sharing their stories and offering their support and encouragement 

This summer, ABC News, and BBC News partnered on a Youtube Channel, TimesXTwo - and chose the topic of Orthorexia as the initial feature. Jordan and Maddy, the trailblazers that they are,  took this opportunity to help shed light on the subject. You can watch their interview and discussion here

I am learning to live and be comfortable with grey. Embrace grey. And dance in the glorious and delicate balance of the rainbow of colors that surround grey.

So here's to the Grey... and everything in between, 

-AeBailey

 

Anitya: In the Case of Change and Impermanence - Processing and Embracing Change with Grace

Let me just tell you, that you can change the circumstances in your life. I’m not saying that it will be easy. In fact, I am willing to bet that it won’t be. But, I assure you that it is worth it.

We all feel the desire to create change in our lives, but we don’t always act upon it. In fact, I think we often don’t. We, as humans like to be comfortable.  It is during those times that we are really comfortable with our life that it seems a force far greater and more powerful than ourself comes in and throws a wrench in our perfectly predictable and relaxed routine - and a dust storm obliterates our white picket fence.

This isn’t to say that we need to be constantly changing our lives (habits, routines, lifestyles etc.), though change need not be feared - but rather accepted, welcomed, and embraced. 

Change, the heartbeat of life, is inevitable. It is through change that we continue to evolve into the best versions of ourselves with more awareness, perspective, and gratitude.
Change is… variety. And what is it that ‘they’ say?
Variety is the spice of life.


The process of change is simple.

·      You decide
·      You act with intention

Now, this isn’t to say that it is predictable. There will be unforeseeable events. There will be unanticipated people, places, and things that catch you off guard. But, with each minor change involved in a major change, you still take it day-by-day… or, hour-by-hour… or, moment-by-moment.

Over analyzing and excessive worrying will make the process incredibly more challenging, or it will stop the process all together. This, my dear ones is commonly referred to as: Getting in your own way.

Yes, there may be situations that are part of your physical (i.e. external: children, pets, possessions  / internal: chronic pain, auto-immune disorders, diseases) or mental (disorders/illnesses) world that are unique and need to be properly considered. It’s important to view these things objectively rather than allowing them to block you from making a necessary change in your life. They are not blockers. They are simply factors. They are part of your equation. They have a function. Learn how to manage them. Better yet, learn how they can work in your favor.

Photo Source: http://i.livescience.com/images/i/000/036/124/i02/shutterstock_112794550.jpg?1359486624

Get well acquainted with all of the facts of your life. Know what isn’t going to change (i.e. your height or nationality), what you want to change (i.e. your career or weight), what you don’t want to change (i.e. your pets, kids, spouse or place of residence), what may change (i.e. the amount of wrinkles around your eyes as you age or who your colleagues are), and what will inevitably change (i.e. the weather or political leaders). Lay it all out on the table. When everything is out in the open, things become less scary and more manageable – and easier to accept.

Processing change requires perspective.
Have you ever completed or watched someone else complete a jumbled rubix cube? It may take time, and it may look messy during the process, but with patience and perseverance, the cubes will align, the colors will match, and the cube will begin to make sense. Often it takes looking at a situation (cube) objectively- to gather the information needed to make sense of the seemingly (impossible) chaos.  Often – it is not that something cannot be done; it is simply that we didn’t have enough information to choose a different way of accomplishing the task.

As soon as you believe that there are no options – that there is no way out, you’ve boxed yourself in.

Once the process of change begins, it can be extremely invigorating and liberating. This energy is hugely powerful! Although you may feel superhuman during this time, you still need to give yourself time to process and time dedicated to the things in your life that you enjoy and wish to stay a constant (yoga, meditation, music, time with friends, jogging etc.). Skipping these things for a long period of time may leave you suddenly feeling lost and out of touch with who you are…you see, with change… you are still you.  It may be - that part of the fear of change lies in the fear of losing ourselves - of not knowing who we are anymore. Without the same front door we walk through, the same café we frequent, the same hair we pull back into a ponytail, the same driveway we drive up, the same familiar faces at the grocery checkout, the same route to work, or the same hand we hold on our evening walks – it’s difficult to stay grounded with who we are at our very core. Change, whether initiated by you or by someone/something else, doesn’t strip the you away from you. You are still you. And, you still need to rest. You still need to eat. You still need to breathe. You still need to live your life. 

Omitting the processing part is a short-term solution born out of the desire to get to the next destination/phase/point as quickly and painlessly as possible. Which is actually a protection mechanism. But this sort of instant gratification – will catch up with you, maybe days, maybe weeks… but more than likely months or even years later. Often times, we don’t neglect this part intentionally… we plow through change on autopilot, wanting to stay strong and “make it through,” and then the aftershock hits us. Which is why it’s important to stay grounded within yourself and aware of how you’re responding and feeling before, during, and after change.

Meditation, yoga, breath work, stillness, music, journaling, nature, and talking with close friends and family are all awareness techniques that can be used to help process change. It’s important to have multiple forums as they all provide a different sort of perspective. For example, what you will discover within yourself while out on a hike in the mountains in solitude is going to be much different than what you will discover while talking to your sister over dinner about the events in your life and how you feel about them. Yet each is equally important.

Whether you change your hair, your place of work, your place of residence, your status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’ or visa versa, or the car you drive, the necessity to process the change is still relevant – regardless of the perceived significance. The weight of change is relative. What may seem like a minor, insignificant change to one person may be a major significant change to another.

And what about the changes that aren’t something that you wanted or intended to create??? A spouse leaving, a loved one dying, being laid off of work, a catastrophic event, an unexpected pregnancy…The fact that something wasn’t anticipated or planned for doesn’t mean that we skip the processing part – it’s a change – a shift in your life. And deserves proper acknowledgment.

Welcome change into your life, become comfortable with the state of change

  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Get comfortable with the unknown
  • Get comfortable with impermanence

Where there is Anitya, there is a way

Anitya (or Annica in Buddhism), is a Sanskirt term symbolizing the concept of impermanence. 

The Buddha explained that we should not become too attached to our bodies and their sensual experiences and thoughts that arise from them, because the attachment to our bodies and to life causes us great dukkha, suffering and misery. Sense contact brings us sense experiences which we then term as desirable or undesirable. From this judgment arises the desire to re-experience similar sensual experiences, which lead directly to attachment. This attachment then leads to a great thirst or craving for the experience. Soon we are entrapped in the need to continue such experiences, for we feel we need or want them. But all experience is very momentary. Hardly have we grasped onto one, when it disappears and a new attraction grabs our minds. Soon we are enmeshed in a great, complex web of desire, all of which is very transitory, and thus unsatisfactory.

The Buddha stated that for us to become free from the constant round of rebirth and suffering, we would need to realize the changing nature of things in its true perspective, so that we could free ourselves from the need for certain experiences, attachment to self and to the illusion of permanence.

One of the major causes of dukkha is our puny attempts to make impermanent things permanent. We want to amass and hold on to things which please our ego concepts. We strive to hold on to youth, to wealth, to fame, to romance. All of these experiences are fleeting. They arise, mature and disintegrate. It is not change itself which causes the greatest pain, it is our resistance to this change that causes the real dukkha. The Buddha again and again explained: “Impermanent indeed are all conditioned things; they are of the nature of arising and passing away. Having come into being, they cease to exist. Hence their pacification is tranquillity.
— http://www.buddhismtoday.com/english/buddha/Teachings/041-anitya.htm

There is always an option. There is always another way – an alternate route. 

Here's to Anitya, 

- AeBailey