Listen to Your Body

As you all may well recall, last year I learned that emotions occur in the body as well as the brain. I don’t mean bodily reactions to emotion, like crying at a movie, or gagging when people talk about the inauguration this weekend. I mean heartache that feels like Heart-Ache. Sadness that manifests like your chest feeling as though it’s caving in on itself. Or anger that makes your eyes burn. I always thought songs and movies were exaggerating but it turns out our bodies hold a wealth of knowledge that a lot of us never even think to access.

I feel our bodies often sense things way before our brains do, like how animals can tell when there’s a natural disaster coming before humans even see the clouds forming. Our bodies can tell us when a person is unsafe, when a situation isn’t working, when we need to take a step back, when we need to avoid a certain social event, when we need to break up with someone, when we need to find a new job, or when we need to slow down and give space to our thoughts/feelings. We may have a persisting headache or something and then get home, turn on Netflix, and start crying “for no reason”. (Hint: There’s always a reason). (Bonus Hint: You’re sad). Listening to our bodies allows us to process and release that emotion long before it turns into an outburst at the grocery store cashier, or snapping at a roommate over the trash.

Nevertheless, instead of paying attention to our physical feelings, most of us rather try to override or explain them away. You leave work feeling completely drained every day and you’re like “Well that’s just how work is! Everyone hates their job.” No dude, you need to leave your fucking job! Or you’re talking to a new person at a bar and your stomach turns and you either don’t notice at all or blame it on eating something weird earlier, when really, you should probably get away from that person! But we don’t want to be judgmental, we don’t want to make snap decisions, or quit our jobs on a whim, which are all valid concerns. However as my therapist pointed out, having a negative gut reaction to something isn’t always necessarily a judgment call about the something. It could just be that the something isn’t right for you.  Maybe your workplace does great things for the community and gives to charity and other people love working there, but for whatever reason it’s not gelling with you. That’s okay, give yourself permission to leave. Maybe that girl you’re talking to at the bar isn’t like, Jezebel incarnate, but for whatever reason it’s just not a good match. That’s okay too, your body might be trynna tell you to bail before you get caught up.

Listening to your body though, first requires making space for your body to speak. Which is probably another reason why we never do it. It’s like meditation, you can’t rush it. You have to sit still and pay attention, which is a most fundamentally un-American practice. Taking time out of your day to focus inward and take a body scan can be reallllll awkward and uncomfortable at first. And sometimes, I’m not gonna lie, the things you start to sense make you feel crazy, or like you’re being overdramatic. One time my body told me I couldn’t go to a party. I know right? #Annoying. I was like “it’s a fucking PARTY just let me go and have fun!” Long story short, I shouldn’t have gone and I did not have fun. It’s confusing in the beginning, and unnerving to feel like you sense something is wrong, but you can’t readily see why. I’m here telling you, trust that instinct. Trust your gut. It’s probably trying to help you out, and it’s probably right.

Advertisements

On Starting Over

Over the last few days I’ve been really ruminating on the idea of newness. Beginning again. Starting over. Learning. Observing. Trying to approach things I’ve experienced before as if I’m doing so for the first time. Currently that’s come in the shape of me taking yoga classes that I’ve either never been to before or haven’t been to in years, and seeing what comes up. Fear, unease, apprehension, anxiety. It’s been a practice in releasing the urge to control, or the need to know What’s Coming Next. And of course, it’s been hard. I didn’t recognize how comfortable I had gotten in my routine, knowing that each yoga class I attended would be “different” but I’d still kinnnnnnda know what to expect—even down to being able to successfully guess about how long I’d have to hold each pose. There was enough variation to make me feel good about myself without actually disturbing my comfort zone.

But this…. This has been different. Nothing says “getting out of your comfort zone” like going into a yoga class blind. Not only did I grossly underestimate my need to know what’s coming next, but I also did not realize how judgy I’d gotten about other classes. I was writing off lower level, or slower paced sessions because I thought my practice was “too advanced” for them. Or that if I didn’t feel completely physically spent after a yoga class, it was a waste of time. I know— so rude, not at all what yoga is about, and that level of pride looks good on no one. But it has been good and humbling to go back to the beginning and observe. To let the slower pace of a class give me the opportunity to really listen and pay attention to the movement of my body. And not only that, but to bring up emotions that maybe would not have had space to arise in more “advanced” classes.

Off the mat, the intention has been the same. I’m trying to enter 2017 with a gentle, open handed, and observant posture. Even with things that are more familiar to me than yoga, like my faith. What would happen if I let everything I thought I knew about God fall away, and I let him tell me his story again? What if I released my own ideas of where I would be by now, or who I would be by now, and I observed What Is without judgment?

I think every once in a while it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we don’t know everything. Or maybe even anything. And remember to approach even the things and people we think we know like the backs of our hands with reverence and curiosity. I swear you can learn any thing from any one at any time. And literally every year, every day, every moment gives us a chance to start over.

The Home Stretch

I saw this tweet the other day that said 2016 was wild because it drastically changed everyone who lived through it— that when we all look back to who we were a year ago, it seems like we can barely recognize ourselves. I read it and I was like, dang I think this random person on the Internet is right! At the very least I can see and/or sense that people around me have undergone dramatic transformations in their lives this year.

Y’all already know I did— I have been VERY CLEAR about my 2016. I say all the time that I feel like I grew five years in this last one. When I look back on who/where I was last year, the things I thought, even how I chose to spend my New Year’s Eve, that girl feels so far away. She feels really young and blissfully ignorant. Not to insinuate that I’m like, totally awake and alert to everything happening inside/outside of me now— that’s an ongoing process. But struggling through a broken heart, learning you have trauma, and starting the process of healing through EMDR will wake you the FUCK up to some shit, let me tell you.

While I have very…VERY few nice things to say about 2016…

I feel like I must say that it’s kind of cool that everyone in the world has felt marked by it. 2016 knocked us all off our asses— maybe in a shitty way by stripping us of pieces of ourselves that we thought formed core parts of our identity, or by devastating us through one the excessive iconic deaths that happened this year (RIP Bowie, Fisher, Michael, Rickman, Ali, Thicke, Prince, Lee, Reynolds, Wilder, etc.) Or maybe you’re one of the six people globally whom 2016 affected in a good way, by making space in your life for a dream career, new life partner, or the prospect of welcoming a new baby. In either case, 2016 made her fucking POINT. And now hopefully we get to send her off into the Abyss with dear friends, merriment, and a SHIT TON of champagne.

Here’s to 2017 y’all! And the incredibly low bar 2016’s set for its greatness! Cheers!

————–

Oh and below I’ll show you more of my Christmas presents* because I promised I’d tell you what I got. Thanks to my beautiful friend Delara for snapping the pics!

*Note: “Christmas presents” denote any fun item bought for me either by myself or someone else between November 15 and December 25, 2016. I didn’t actually get any of this shit on Christmas.

First ‘fit 
Skirt: Topshop | Necklace: Forever 21 | Lipstick: “Too Faced”, Sephora

Second ‘fit:
Jacket: All Saints | Shoes: Steve Madden | Earrings: China, like the actual country

 

 

It Doesn’t Have to be A Dream

Last night our yoga teacher asked us to raise our hands if we were currently working at our dream job. About five people out of the thirty-person class raised their hands— I wasn’t one of them. Her follow-up question was: “If you aren’t doing your dream job, what’s something you could do every day to get you closer to it?” Cue full on panic-attack, and me drenched in sweat before we’d even started moving. It was like a large, heated spotlight had been pointed directly at my face. “Well?!” Femi said to herself like a schoolmarm to a child who hadn’t done her homework. “What are you doing???”

…What the fuck am I doing?

Is anyone else scared? I feel like I’m terrified, and I’ve been working to name that fear. I know what my dream job is. I have a date by when I want to be doing my dream job. But what do I do between now and then? How do I get from here to there? And the worry that I’m wasting my days is a constant presence. I’m sitting in this yoga class, fully aflame, because the teacher is right – our dream doesn’t have to stay a dream. We can do it! Or get close. But suddenly there comes all this pressure, and weight, and worry, and fear. What if I can’t do it? What if I’m not good at it? What if I keep spending all my free time watching Netflix and my life stays the same and I never get out of this job that I kind of hate? I think about those people who are like “This job was supposed to be a two year gig!” at their 20th anniversary office potluck. The last thing I want is to wake up one day and feel like my life flew right by me, and I never used it to do something that made me feel alive.

The funny thing I’m realizing about dreams is that they’re scary either way. I feel scared to do it, and I also feel scared not to. But fear is paralyzing and I think that’s how people end up spending decades in places they only intended to spend months. “What’s one thing you can do every day to bring you closer to working your dream job?” I feel like another way to ask that is how do we focus on a manageable task in front of us to help us release all that fear?

My initial reaction was “HEY GET OFF MY BACK ALRIGHT?!” which I wasn’t entirely expecting. Not directed at my teacher of course, this is a conversation concerning only me and Me. But “Me” noticed that the inflammatory response is fear-based. Because that little question pokes a hole in my “safe” bubble and I want to close it up. It makes me look to see what steps I could take out of my box, and even just looking outside feels frightening.  But if we can get past the inflammatory reaction, past the fear mongering we love doing, can we answer it?
What’s one thing you can do every day to work towards your dream job?

At this juncture I’d also like to point out that we’ll need grace. We’ll need to ask ourselves this question with grace, and we’ll need grace for ourselves on the days when we don’t do anything to work towards our dream job. Those days have to be okay too. I just want to encourage you, and encourage myself. And hopefully also calm myself TF down. We can do it, right? I think we can make our lives what we want them to be.

I don’t know what your dream job is, but at the end of class our teacher encouraged us to share it with each other so I’ll tell you mine: I want to be a blogger (lol surprise). And I’d like to be making most if not all of my income from it in 5 years. There it is, out in the Universe and on the Internet forever. Honestly it felt really vulnerable to put out there, but also exhilarating! Give it a shot –maybe not the Internet part, you can just tell a friend. Or you could make it your Facebook status— whatever feels right. And then let’s get to work, let’s share and connect and support and bolster each other in our quests. We can do this.

To Be Seen

A few months ago at the start of yoga class, our teacher offered a quote intended to inspire our meditation. I don’t remember the quote, and when I asked her last night she didn’t either, so I will do my best to paraphrase: “The most joyful meditation is the contemplation of one’s own existence.” In other words, the mere thought that you exist brings the most joy during meditation. In reflecting on that, I was like if that is true, then perhaps the most distressing thing must be to feel like you do not exist. That you cannot be seen, heard, or felt – that you have no impact. It feels abstract, but as I’ve observed my own process through therapy and through sustained observation of human behavior, I’ve noted that we all desire to be seen. Especially through infancy and childhood, we need to know that we are heard, that we can be felt, that our existence is consequential.

And I wondered, is this why we hate getting cut off on the freeway? I know this seems like a silly image to use in illustration of a serious concept, but bear with me. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed in myself that when I get cut off on the freeway, rage swells in me unlike any other experience.  All of a sudden I feel hot— my heart is pounding the righteous drums of indignation. And since I don’t believe in “overreactions”, and in the grand scheme of life being cut off on the freeway seems such a miniscule event, I ask myself, what am I reacting to? What basic plea is being violated? My best guess is that being cut off is infuriating because it is another person operating as though I do not take up space. I’ll often hear myself go HELLOOOOO?! I’M RIGHT FUCKING HERE!!! Is that what we’re all screaming? At parents who abandoned us, literally or figuratively; who carelessly played favorites among siblings? At romantic interests who keep looking us over for someone else— Hello, I’m right here! Why can’t you see me?

This drive to be acknowledged is universal. We intuitively recognize its presence in archetypes and old stories that cross cultures, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, gender… We all know about the younger sister who always felt like she lived in her older sister’s shadow (remember when Ashlee Simpson actually released a song called “Shadow”? Perhaps a better question might be: does anyone remember Ashlee Simpson? Anyway, we can move on.) We all know about the poor kid’s disappointment when he scores a point at his basketball game and he looks over to see his dad on the phone with his back turned, completely disengaged. How many of us have heard a toddler go “Watch me! Watch me!” when he/she is no doubt about to do something utterly mediocre but is seeking acknowledgement and recognition from an audience? I mean, hell, if we want to get biblical about it, Cain killed his goddamn brother because he felt like he wasn’t getting as much attention from God as he deserved. #Drama. We have a desperate need to be seen. I think this is also why the cry of the marginalized is so great, and why representation in media is so important. We need to see ourselves reflected to know that we exist to our society.

I’ve believed for a long time that the thing that keeps us running is love. It motivates all growth, inspiration, benevolence, trust, goodness, life, compassion, honesty, faith, kindness, you get it. Obviously food, water, and shelter are necessary as well but if we are to connect with our humanity, to feel ourselves and to be ourselves—even to properly inhabit our physical bodies— we need to be loved in some capacity by someone. I believed that love was the most fundamental thing, but you can’t be loved until you are seen. You can’t be loved until you are acknowledged, received, and experienced, hence being seen usurps—or perhaps joins—love in being the most fundamental thing. We have to be seen before we can be anything else. And not just by others, though that is clearly imperative. But I’d argue that as seeing another comes before loving another, seeing yourself comes before loving yourself.

God Will Break Your Heart

I’ve been locked in a titanic struggle with God for the past few weeks— maybe months, I don’t know I’ve lost count. In reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, I learned that God brings us to walls – that is, to dark nights of the soul, or painful circumstances/situations – to rid us of our false perceptions of Him as well as false perceptions of ourselves. So after the bitch of a wall I went through this year, I found myself looking for another God. I thought perhaps the god I thought was God was actually like, God-lite: happy, safe, loving, nice. And whatever asshole who sent me through this hellish year was the real God. So I had thoughts like, is God actually good? Is He supportive of me? Does He love me? Is He indifferent? Is He personal? Can I trust Him? And I went through this really crazy upside down period where I felt like I had absolutely NO grasp on who God is; it was a little scary, and very unnerving for someone who has spent her whole life in the Church. But after some searching and meditation, I was like… I think they might be the same guy? Which honestly felt scarier. My “God-lite”, who I felt so connected to two years ago— who felt safe and supportive and loving and cool— might be the same God who allowed and perhaps even nudged me to walk into a position to have my heart broken. And that feels scarier because I’m like, now what do I do? How do I fit this new information into what I had previously understood to be the character of God? How does God allowing me to be leveled— to be “sifted like wheat” as we discussed a few weeks ago—align with the characterization of being a “Good Father”? Why the fuck would He break me like this? That’s what I’ve found myself asking God the most in the few times I’ve tried talking to Him recently: “What the fuck did you do?!”

For a while I was reading Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller and in it, he talked about how Christianity is relational, as opposed to formulaic. And how that throws us all for a loop because it makes it so that we cannot even begin to predict how God will move. We’re all looking for an A + B = C type situation and God’s like “Hey but do you want to sit down and talk?” I mean sure we all, like God, have core character traits that make our behaviors more or less consistent, but if you’ve ever been in any sort of a relationship with any other living being, you know the last thing we are is predictable. We have free minds and free wills, the way God does. And sometimes He does something where we’re like WHOA HOLD ON GOD THAT WASN’T IN THE SCRIPT, and it’s like, right, yeah, because God isn’t a robot. Which is like fine I guess (read: super annoying), but it makes it veryyyyy difficult when you feel like God has hung you out to dry. If there are things about Him that are true and unchanging, for example that He is fundamentally good, how do we hold that in the moments when it feels like He has opened the floodgates of hell on us? How does God breaking my heart reflect the actions of someone who loves me?

And I mean, okay, I guess that is answered in the idea that God uses walls to free us of falsehoods. It’s true that there are a myriad of lessons and traits about myself that I would not have learned had I not been through the specific events of this year. But like what happens when you’re still mad about it? I feel like that’s my problem. I’m like yeah I learned some cool new shit about my latent trauma thanks God but also I’M STILL REALLY FUCKING PISSED YOU BROUGHT ME HERE. Yikes. And it’s worrying because I’m like, honestly I don’t know how I will make it back to Him. I have been mad for what feels like a longgggggg time. God and I have been on the rocks for what feels like a very long time. And I truly don’t know how to return to a place where He feels safe. I will also say that I understand and accept that my perspective is wildly limited and that that could change, but I want to be honest about where I am in the present moment. I mean truthfully, I think this might be part of being a Christian. We go through periods where we feel like we’ve lost God, and we don’t know how or if we’ll find Him again. So fun.

On the other side of it, one of the things that gets me about this process is the last half of that verse in Luke, where Jesus, after implying that He’s allowing the devil to wreck him, tells Simon Peter “I pray that your faith would not fail.” Sooo God allows us to be absolutely shattered, brought to the gaping doors of hell in some cases, but at the same time He cheers for us to pull through? It seems to be a very big risk to take on His part. If it’s true that He loves us, and that He desires to hold us and have us close to Him, what a chance to take, throwing us to the wolves and hoping that we’ll return to Him afterwards. You got some nerve, God. You got someeeeee nerve.  But also maybe that speaks to what we are worth. That God is willing to risk losing us because He believes our growth is that important.

I feel like I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know what to do with any of this, really. This is just where I am, and these are the truths I’m wrestling with. God will break your heart but He loves you and He’s trying to grow you so it’s supposed to be good. And you’ll probably get really mad about it and you won’t know when you’ll stop being mad about it and it’ll put a huge strain on your relationship with Him. And that’s….. I mean that’s really all of it.

…I feel like I need a drink, anybody else feel like they need a drink? Let’s all go get a drink. Cheers.

Here Comes the Bachelorette!

Co-planned my first bachelorette party!! We threw it this past weekend and let me tell you, I don’t know how the duties of a Maid of Honor can be contained in one person, thank GOD the bride picked two of us. But I had so much fun planning ideas and decorating for the house so I wanted to share them with you all! I don’t think I took any of these photos lol. We were decorating til the last second and after that all I wanted was to sit and have 5 glasses of wine but luckily there were other photogs in the bunch who could snap these lovely pics. Enjoy!

Well, This Is Awkward.

Today boys and girls I’d like to share with you my interpretation of a passage of scripture. We’ll go in our bibles to Luke chapter 22, verses 31 and 32. In the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded permission to sift all of you like wheat; but I have prayed especially for you Peter—“ (don’t worry, it’s the same guy) “—that your faith and confidence in Me may not fail; and you, once you have turned back again to Me, strengthen and support your brothers in the faith.”

Now I’ve heard that verse a thousand times and I’ve always thought Jesus was saying to Simon-Slash-Peter something like “Hey yeah so, super awkward, the devil has come asking me to sift you like wheat—“ (which I think is something like being utterly and absolutely broken) “— but hey man don’t worry there’s NO WAY I’m gonna let that happen! We’re bros, I’m God, don’t even worry about it you’re chill.” Also in my mind sometimes Jesus sounds like He’s in a SoCal chapter of SigChi— that’s my own personal struggle. But anyway point is: I always thought Jesus was telling Peter that the devil was trying to fuck him up but that He, being God, was going to keep that from happening. And then a couple months ago I realized JESUS NEVER SAID THAT. *shocked emoji face* Instead he says “I pray your faith would not fail”, to which I’m kind of like
question marks

In my mind, this is how the actual exchange went:

Jesus: Okay so Simon, listen. The devil came by earlier, he asked if he could really fuck you up. Like reallllyyyyyy rake you over the coals you know, we’re talking complete and absolute devastation here. Maybe physical, maybe emotional. Might be both, I dunno, he seemed like he was in a pretty foul mood.
SP: *obviously distraught* Shit, man seriously? That does not sound good, what did you say?
Jesus: …Okay here’s the thing: I didn’t say no.
SP: WHAT THE FU—
Jesus: Hear me out! Hear me out! Alright it’s true, I didn’t say no, I’m gonna let him have at you, BUT! Here’s what I’m gonna do man, I’m gonna pray for you. I’m gonna pray for you that your faith won’t fail! Good deal right? And hey listen, when you’ve made it through the inevitable hell-fire shitstorm that’s coming your way, encourage your brothers as well. Tell them I’m praying for them too! Stay strong dude *gives hearty pat on the back*
SP: ….

That awkward moment when God has the power to stop something awful from happening to you but lets it happen anyway, am I right? #Yikes. Anyhoo, that’s what I’ve been sitting on this week. And if you too feel like you’re being sifted like wheat by Beelzebub himself, well then. I guess Jesus and I are both praying for you that your faith would not fail. He more than me though, I’ve got my own shit to worry about.

 

This is the Word of God for us today. Namaste, Peace Up A-town Down.

The Problem of Unrequited Love

A few months ago my friend shared with me an interesting thought from an article about unrequited love offering a hypothesis as to why we all fall victim to it eventually. The article said that perhaps it’s because it helps us identify with the Cross (Oh, did I mention it was a Christian article? 🙂 ) Loving someone who can’t or won’t love us back breeds familiarity with an act of love so deep and incomprehensible shown to an audience who at worst, couldn’t care less and at best, fails regularly at offering it in return. I thought about that and God’s inconceivable capacity for nursing a broken heart. Not yours, don’t be selfish. I mean His own. How exhausting it must be to continue offering love to people who can’t help but hurt themselves, each other, and Himself.

So we love without being loved in return, and it hurts. Maybe because it mirrors the way God loves us, maybe because we’re just flat out insane. In either case, the difference between us and God is that at some point, we have to stop. I’ve been thinking about this too because I have a lot of trouble stopping. Countless long ass crushes over the last two decades have really driven that point home for me. And I’ve watched a lot of people have trouble stopping as well. Maybe it’s not a chronic condition as it seems to be in my case, but most people have had that oneeeeee person they just could not shake. And if you haven’t, honestly you can go fuck yourself.

If anyone’s been watching Bachelor in Paradise at all for the last couple years, you’ve at least seen this at work between Jared and Ashley I. I mean there are obviously a whole host of other issues going on there that would fill an entirely separate blog post, but we can all identify on some level with homegirl’s struggle. Wanting someone so badly who, for whatever reason, just does not want you back. And feeling like despite reason, despite being painfully aware of their position, maybe even despite them being an obviously bad fit, you cannot stop hoping. “Maybe they’ll change their mind! Maybe they’ll come around! It only takes one thought to give this a different ending!”

I’m a pretty big believer in the idea that “we were all made in God’s image and in His likeness” (The Bible). Not necessarily with regards to our specific bodies — although maybe, who knows — but I think the way He operates is reflected imperfectly in the way we operate. How we seek connection, how we’re curious and creative, how we are angered by injustice and also show tremendous capacity for mercy and forgiveness, and yes maybe how we continue to love and go after people who are telling us “no”.

Have you guys ever heard of StrengthsFinder? It’s a personality test that gives you a list of your top 5 natural abilities, things that come easily to you. There are strengths like “Activator”, people who are really good at starting projects. Or “Relator”, people who are good at making others feel comfortable and known around them. When I think about the ways God is reflected in us, I think about this list of strengths because I feel like God has all of them. One of my top strengths is called “Restorative”. It’s the problem-solving one, I loveeee a good problem. Big problem, small problem, theoretical problem, emotional problem, give it to me and I will try my damndest to help you solve it.

Recently I watched a video going into more depth on this strength and the speaker noted that the thing about people with Restorative is that they firmly believe no problem is unsolvable. No situation is too complicated, no person is too damaged or too far gone, everyone and everything can find healing and restoration if we work at it enough. Sounds like God right? It’s a beautiful picture of redemption – my problem though, is that I am not God. So I have this desire to endlessly offer myself to these people and problems when I don’t possess the capacity to do so. God can do it. God can chase forever after toxic people (which is all of us to some extent btw), even as they wound Him time and time again. I on the other, much more mortal, hand have to set a boundary. Which is hard, I battle against it constantly. Caught in this tension between pursuing a natural passion to help and fix, but having to respect my own limitations if and when the situation becomes unhealthy. And I think that’s the hard thing about deciding to end an unrequited love, we have boundless hope again that maybe something will change. Maybe they will change and grow. It’s beautiful, but at the end of it, we just don’t possess the capacity for that kind of pain. God does. Let Him chase those people. We have to learn to call it quits and throw in the towel when loving someone comes at our own detriment.