relax

Do you manage or master?

The whole time management thing is a myth. I busted it.

Same goes for managing life. Busted.

Managing is for people who want to barely get by. It's for people who feel stuck and want to stay stuck, even when they protest otherwise. It's for people who tread water and keep their face barely above the surface. It's for people who make bold claims about who they are to convince everyone, including themselves. Managing is frenzy, manic, exhausted, confused, overwhelmed, frustrated and irritable. It's bare minimum.

Managing doesn't work for me. I've tried it. For many years. Actually, I was doing it right up until my self-imposed sabbatical that started in May. That blog post is coming next week. Or should I write about integrity instead? I can't choose. Vote here and help me.

One of the many things I determined whilst on my self-imposed sabbatical was how long I'd been managing my life. Yes, it was going ok. Yes, I was moderately successful. Yes, I was doing much better compared to many other people, in fact. But I was also experiencing too many days, weeks and months of this low-grade bummed out feeling that I couldn't shake. I tried to do all these things to change that feeling and realized I was feeding the same monster: my own conditioning to manage instead of master.

So, I began to practice mastering my life. Mastering my time. Mastering my communication. Mastering my energy. Mastering my money, Mastering my choices. Mastering my exercise, food, spirituality and career plans. Mastering my MIND, most especially.

Wow. That did it.

Moving from a mindset of managing to mastering takes intention and some time because the managing habits are SO STRONG. God, I've been reinforcing those habits for my whole life.

This mastering thing requires me to really hone in on what I've been doing well and taking it to the next level. It helps me feel the way I wanted to be feeling the whole time I was treading water thinking I was doing it "right". 

How mastery feels

You know that feeling when you walk out onto the beach for the first time in a long time? Where you focus on the waves and smell that air and you sort of feel your body connect with all that energy? For a few moments you forget everything about your life and you just see that horizon and sky and water and smell the salt and that's all there is. 

That's how we are meant to feel. We can find it and make it a real thing, every day. I didn't used to think so, but I'm doing it and it's pretty awesome. It took a major mind shift that I probably wouldn't have been able to make without all the work I've done up to this point AND the time and space I created to breathe a bit. 

 

Mastering works better than managing. Mastering puts you in the driver's seat with a relaxed but confident grip on the wheel. It isn't about controlling (that's managing). It's about moving from aspiration to action, putting intentions into practice and moving with everything as it comes.

Sit with this today and see how it feels. Which are you doing right now? Managing or mastering?

The Body Image Monster Didn't Win Today

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  I consider days when my body image monster doesn't win to be major victories.

I've battled body image issues my whole life, or more specifically once puberty hit and peer validation became a thing. Prior to that, I was just a kid of the 80s running around. Adolescence marked the beginning to the boxes we place ourselves and others into. It was when I became increasingly more aware and self-conscious of my physical form and it wasn't fun for me. The more I talk to people, I learn just how common this shared experience is.

Hell is a place on earth and it's called middle school.

I remember standing in the dressing room while shopping for bathing suits. Or shopping for something to wear to the final dance for my 8th grade graduation. I wailed. I pleaded. I sobbed. I didn't want to look. I didn't want to choose. Nothing felt right.I hated my reflection on those days. They were pure torture. It may be why I still have issues shopping for clothes. The dressings room bring up some PTSD, maybe, even though I'm no longer shopping for ill-fitting dresses or bathing suits.

Things got minimally better as I grew older. Grunge came into fashion and that meant big baggy clothes I could hide in. As fashion trends change, and since powerfully choosing to wear clothes I really love, I find myself sticking to old standbys from the GAP (not skinny jeans) or brands like Frank & Oak, my new favorite. I choose what feels good or what I like.

I've worked hard to get myself into the best shape possible, but the body image monster is always hanging out, like the proverbial raincloud above my head or a guest who just won't leave after the party is over. No matter what I eat (or don't eat) or how often I run or work out, I just don't have the body type where I will slide on a pair of slim fit pants and need a belt. Only once have I've known the feeling of having my sits bones actually hurt when I sat down--when I dropped down to 118 pounds in high school during the nadir of my eating disorder. It was unpleasant, the whole thing, and not something I wish to replicate.

I know I will have supreme inner peace and probably come close to nirvana when I accept my body fully for all it is and is not, but the body image monster is constantly goading me to suffer, instead. I haven't given him a name or a shape or other characteristics, he's just "there" as a feeling.

But he didn't win the other day. He's winning less and less each day, actually.

I had a day last week where I was laying on my bed, staring at my hand and I started sobbing out of nowhere. It may sound a little silly but the realization of how many years, days, minutes and seconds I've spent staring at my hand just knocked the wind out of me. I've been through so much and so many changes, and there's my hand--always there when I look for it. My body is so familiar to me, more reliable than any person, place or thing in my life; it's my oldest and best friend.

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I try to remember that realization and this sentiment when I lose touch with my gratitude for my body that works so hard to keep me alive another day. I've lost so many dear friends and family members to their battles with their physical forms and I know I'm not alone in this. By appreciating our own bodies a bit more, perhaps it's like sending a prayer for the extra day or week our friends and family members would have liked to be here, imperfect body and all.

1) Avoid mirrors. I didn't own a mirror for years and I have definitely noticed a huge shift in my own struggle with body image the more mirrors I have around or when I search for my reflection in a window. Sometimes I spend minutes spinning around, trying to get a good angle, before leaving the house. Some days, there are no good angles and I've found the best days are when I don't go near a mirror before leaving the house. Perhaps it's denial but whoever said ignorance is bliss is a good friend of mine when it comes to what I look like some days.

2) Wear what fits you now. Sometimes I rejoice when I can fit into pants I wore three years ago. Some days I feel like I should have a scrolling banner attached to the length of my body and be lifted horizontally into the atmosphere. I know my body has undergone a massive biological and physiological transformation in the past two years. I know different companies make clothes in many different environments from many different fabrics according to specific dimensions or measurements. Despite the reality that each human body is incredibly different in so many ways, we all try to look the same and fit into pieces of fabric sewn together. Still, my BIM (body image monster) tells me I'm a failure. When he does this, I grab whatever feels most comfortable now, no matter the size, and give him the finger.

3) Eat food. During the year or so of my eating disorder, I followed some ridiculous logic. I starved myself most of the day and then consumed specific foods I deemed "safe" or "allowed", most of which were high in simple carbohydrates. Since I was often so weak from malnutrition, I wasn't exercising to burn off all that energy so all those simple carbs went right to my fat cells. I little silly but hey, it happened. Now, I know better. Despite some frustration with my aging body and metabolism, I know eating more food of many different kinds (mostly vegetables and fresh fruit), not limited amounts of the same things, is the solution to maintaining a healthy weight. And so I eat whole foods in healthy amounts and consider my job done.

4) Relax and relate. The body image monster is such a funny guy. He tries to tell me that people I see who are thinner or more fit (the skinny jeans wearers, namely) are happy and content in their bodies. Such a sassy devil, that one. He's funny and really wrong. When I find myself comparing myself or making assumptions about other people, I think of how many people have confessed their own body image struggles to me. I relax and remember not to be deceived by appearances. I relate to the internal conflict of self-acceptance many people face each day, no matter their appearance. I would say everyone, but I try to avoid generalizing with my assertions. But it has surprised me how many people struggle when others might think they would have no reason to at all.

I think it's also helpful to zoom out and consider our bodies as one aspect about us. We are more than our physical forms. We are our character, our courage, our talents, our habits (both good and not-so-good ones) our accomplishments and the way we show up for people and relationships we care about. We are unlimited potential and when we confine our worth to the shape we are in, it limits what we can provide others and give to ourselves.

I share this with my clients who make assumptions, either related to body image or anything else, and they find it really helpful perspective. It's inspired me to write another post about what we think we see and what we attach to it. That's coming up next week.

Do you have a body image monster? What have you observed about him/her/it over your life, as you've grown and changed?

What have you found to be effective in defeating and overcoming the negative self-talk of your body image monster?

How to Let Your Parents (and yourself) Off the Hook

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Last week, I reunited with my mom for the first time in 5 years.

 

5 years.

 

That's a long time to go without seeing your mom's face and get a hug from her. Too long for me, that's for sure.

It was really taking a toll on me, physically, mentally and emotionally. I tried to pretend it was cool and it didn't bother me but it wasn't. Not one bit.

It made sense, in a way. I got it. I came out as transgender and my mom had a hard time with it. She freaked. She withdrew. She didn't say things like, "oh honey, you have my 100% support."

Somehow, along the way, I forgot my mom wasn't perfect. And then I got mad and hurt because I forgot I am not perfect, either.

With all the Pema Chodron listening I do, you would think I would have remembered this. You would guess that I would have brought my enlightenment to this situation and be like, "hey mom, no problem." But it wasn't time for me to do that until recently. Which was the perfect time, really, because that's when it happened. It's really that simple.

You see what I did right there? I just let myself off the hook. I gave myself a break for going through something hard and being a bit imperfect and impatient and ungraceful during that process. 

And just like that, POOF! I was able to do the same for my mom.

Over the past six months, I have gradually reached out to her more and more because I knew she was struggling to understand and accept this new me. I think pretty soon she will come around to realize it isn't really a new me, but just a more complete version. Some better, sexy, updated packaging, you might say. Now the outside has integrity to the inside. She knows what I was like as a kid, she knows that she raised me to straddle the lines of life and not let anyone tell me where to draw them.

But there are new pronouns to practice. A new name. My face looks different (although some of that is just me getting on in years) but she sees my smile is still the same.

This all started when I followed my heart. When we are able to let ourselves do what we need to, we can make that space for others. I've known a lot of people who do this some of the time. I know many people who barely give themselves space to breathe, and I see what they do to the people in their lives, in their country and in the world.

We can only love and accept people to the extent that we love and forgive and accept ourselves. It's a process. It takes a long time. It takes practice. It all starts with the intention to let ourselves, and others, off the hook. 

When we embrace that we are really imperfect beings, we can relax. OMG, the pressure is off. The curtain is pulled away.  The secret is out. We aren't perfect and we won't ever be. AND, at the same time--we are completely whole and perfect in that imperfection. The more we relax and accept it, the better life gets.

During our whole lunch together, we kept expressing how good it felt---even if it felt a little weird. We just let the weird be there.

And the day after, my mom sent a text that was all I've needed to hear for the past 5 years, "I love you and I missed you very much."

 

Let yourself off the hook.

Let your parents off the hook. They did their darn best, otherwise they would have done more if they had it available to them.

Just like you're doing right now.

Seriously.

 

Now go give them a call.