belonging is the very best thing there is : cynosure : love + inspiration by sui solitaire

“edward, I finally remember where I belong. you have someone waiting for you too. there’s somewhere that you belong, edward. you should go and find out where.
it’s the best. belonging is the very best thing there is.

♥ Faye Valentine

what else is there to say?

she smarts with just a few words.

I don’t hate endings, but they leave smudges. nostalgia is that stupid, powerful feeling that so many people waste their time over. even if we live in the present, we remember, and memories are the stains on the tiles.

I don’t mean to be melancholy, I just don’t know anything else right now.

so, salutations, sweetheart.

the truth is I’ve forgotten how to write.

       
Share with a Friend

My work is entirely reader-supported.
Thank you for helping by spreading the word.

NO MAKE-UP WEEK: “…a lady ain’t what she wears, but what she knows.” -India.Arie

When Rabbit approached me about No Make-Up Week, I knew I wanted to get involved even though (or maybe especially?) I literally never wear make-up. What was meant to be a short post about my reasons for forgoing make-up evolved into this. (Also upcoming is a special No Make-Up Week guest post by my dear friend Ellie, whose story inspired much of my own post.)

It was either forest green or fragrant grass, but all I remember is that it was sparkly, verdant, and eyeshadow. Oh, and it was my mom’s, and I was 10, and I wasn’t supposed to be in that drawer, and I wasn’t supposed to wear make-up until I was 40, or “older”, or something. To my mother, make-up was meant for old people to regain their youth– not for young girls like me to look more “grown up”.

I saw my sister that next summer, though, for the first time in 7 years– and she gave me some of her old make-up, brands that were foreign, European, unheard of and unavailable in the U.S. When I started at a new school a few months later, I was determined to forge a new, “popular”, well-liked identity– different from my awkward but at least not ostracized self in elementary school. That “identity” included permed-curly, dyed-bright-orange hair, “fashionable” clothes, and most importantly, a whopping layer of make-up.

But people probably thought I looked like a clown, so I was teased and bullied instead of being propelled into the “in” crowd. I started buying make-up only for the sake of having it– fitting in, being, or seeming, like a “normal” girl– even if I rarely put any of the eyeliners and eyeshadows and blushes and fancy contraptions to use.

Then I just stopped caring about how I looked (or, stopped taking care of myself, but still caring what other people thought of me). Then I cut my hair and saw in the mirror what seemed to me like a non-girl. A short-haired human being who didn’t differentiate her gender with make-up and wore baggy black clothes all the time? Even if I felt heterosexual when I was attracted to boys, I wondered if some element of me was just boy, through & through.

When I was a freshman in high school, a male acquaintance gave me make-up as a souvenir from a trip– lip gloss, mascara, creams that to this day I have yet to use. I didn’t know whether to feel insulted or grateful… was a gift of make-up a nudge that I “needed” make-up, could do with make-up to look “better”?

No matter. Somewhere along the way, I did start taking care of myself a little more. Respecting myself. Looking presentable. Wearing lip gloss occasionally, that same lip gloss I got as a gift. Dressing up. Being a little bit more secure in my own appearance, even if still far from confident.

I was, looked, okay. Just okay. Still lacking in self-respect, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-love. Still pretty depressed. But I didn’t just wear the same oversized black pants and black sweatshirt anymore. I no longer tried to hide my sexuality, my woman-ness. I was learning to accept it, even cherish it a little, even be happy and proud in it, even flaunt it.

And then came my sixteenth birthday. It was Advanced Placement testing season, and everyone was too busy to spend my birthday with me, even my closest friends. So I asked a guy from my community college class, who I thought was cute, though lacking in personality– or emotion, really– to hang out with me that day.

That day, he took me to Japantown. Out of nowhere, he grabbed my hand. He treated me to dinner. He drove me to the Golden Gate Bridge… and molested me. And called me fat. And told me I should wear make-up– I’d “look so much better that way, like a Japanese girl.”

He had a girlfriend who lived in Japan.

If I had to decide on the pivotal experience of my life that probably sparked the eventual severity of my body image issues, it was that night.

It was feeling violated, feeling like it was my fault, feeling guilty, feeling punished, feeling like sex and sexuality was something shameful and terrible, feeling fat and useless and ugly and worth absolutely nothing… that made me hate myself, made me want to punish myself more than I ever did when I was even deeply depressed and lost my will to live.

It was worse than that. I still existed, but I didn’t feel anything. I was numb. I anesthetized myself. I stopped living.

When I eventually learned to recover from both my body image issues and depression, I learned to let go, to forgive, to grow stronger. I learned to love what I looked like naturally. And I also learned this:

My hair, my lack of make-up, my clothes may be expressions of myself, but they are not me– my spirit, my love, my joy. I look better because I respect myself. Not the other way around.

I once read a story– one of those chain email stories from back in the day (amazing how those are already outdated, huh?)– that spoke of a high school teacher who saw a girl applying make-up in his class. He said something like, “Girls applying make-up to their faces is like putting paint on roses.

And I feel the same way. I don’t wear make-up because I don’t need it. And I don’t think you, regardless of gender, need it either.

I used to wear it at least on special occasions, but not even that anymore. I wore silver eyeliner under my eyes once in January this year for a self-portrait. I bought my first tube of lipstick from an actual make-up store two years ago– bright red– and I still like it, though I’ve only worn it a smattering of times. Curling my eyelashes used to be my only beauty regimen, but now I leave them alone, too. When I (inexplicably) wanted to be a model several years ago and I had my photos taken by a now ex-lover, the make-up was piled on so much that I failed to look like myself. It went from what was supposed to be artistic to being just plain fake.

That’s the real reason: I want to look like myself.

And I never believed make-up was “necessary”. Make-up was always just an option, and to me it was an inconsequential one. When I read from the No Make-Up Week page itself that “8 out of 10 women prefer their female colleagues to wear makeup”, I was a little surprised. I wondered if the rate of promotion in the average workplace for short-haired girls– super-short, or even bald– was also lower, as it purportedly is for bare-faced women. Then I felt grateful that I choose not to work in a traditional office.

 

Conclusion: I like my face. I’m blessed that I don’t have acne anymore (I attribute that to overall health), and the scars I do have are mostly found elsewhere. Even if make-up might make my eyes seem bigger, my lips moister, my cheeks brighter… it’s not me. It might be a “pretty” version of a fake me that someone else might find attractive. But it’s not real to me, nor do I think it makes me “more beautiful”.

In fact, outside of eco-friendly, natural sunscreen, soap & shampoo bars, toothpaste, and floss (just got vegan waxed, biodegradable floss yesterday– in a recyclable cardboard box!), I don’t use any other personal care products at all. The toxicity of all the unknown & unpronounceable chemical ingredients in make-up and other items (as seen in Story of Cosmetics– petroleum jelly is made from petroleum!) & all those endless bottles of unrecyclable plastic become more of a burden than boon to me. (Plus, natural, non-polluting alternatives are much simpler & cheaper, too!) I don’t need much. I’ve gotten rid of most of my make-up (stuff I bought as long as 8 years ago– eek!) and won’t be buying any more.

Still, I think it’s important to examine our relationship with make-up. If we can examine how we feel about ourselves honestly and openly when we do wear it and when we don’t, we might learn a few things about ourselves along the way.

Make-up is a metaphor for a woman’s relationship with her sexuality and self– even if she doesn’t wear any.

the 6 secrets to bouncing back after a binge

Happy 10/10/10! 🙂

 

We all have days when we feel out of balance with our bodies. We wake up on the wrong side of the pillow, feel sluggish or idle or sad or bored, and we make a choice that isn’t something that makes us or our bodies happy.

Even the healthiest eaters experience moments when they just don’t do what’s best for their bodies. And that’s more than okay.

But if you want learn how to bounce back to the present, let go and get back to living your life, return your body to equilibrium and prevent future binges, read on.

1. First things first, before you do ANYTHING else: Forgive yourself.

Feeling guilt is not going to change what happened (and may spark a cycle of self-destruction). Accept that it happened. Take responsibility for the fact that you made the choice at the time to do something, and it couldn’t have happened any other way. You NEEDED this binge so you could become stronger and learn to overcome and move on and take care of your body even more in the future. This was a necessary challenge for your journey. It’s another step towards taking better care of yourself.

Accept it, and move on. No regrets, no worries, no guilt. It was just another learning experience.

This is when you need yourself MOST. Don’t turn your back on yourself with guilt and blame. (Don’t blame anyone else or the food itself, either. Blame has no place in anything here.) DON’T punish yourself. DON’T restrict. DON’T deny. DON’T torture yourself. DON’T force yourself in any way to “make up” for the extra nutrients or push your body in order to “reverse” the effects.

Give yourself the most loving hug (or imaginary hug) you can. Cleanse your heart from self-negativity with forgiveness and love.

Choose to take care of yourself in this present moment.

2. Figure out how you felt and why you made the choices you did, and write a list of things you’ll do the next time you feel that way.

Sit down and reflect on why you binged. Were you bored? Tired? Sad? Felt idle or lazy? Did you get too hungry and conversely end up not listening to your body?

You might say “I just really wanted to eat that one thing!” but that’s oftentimes not the real reason. Sometimes wanting to eat “that one thing” is symbolic of a deeper hunger, of yearning for things you think you can’t have, of denial and deprivation.

Write down how you feel. Just let it flow freely from your mind, your heart. Or alternatively, open up to someone you trust who loves you. Talk to them. Express yourself. Focus on your emotions and give them the attention they need. Don’t try to suppress or otherwise anesthetize them (especially not with more binging!).

Take a piece of scratch paper from the recycle bin. Write down a list of things you can do instead next time. Post it on the wall in front of the place in your house you spend the most time at. (My list once included, “put on a dress, take a walk, write, read, call a friend”, etc.)

3. Realize you have the choice to stop binging. Resist “all or nothing” thinking.

You have a choice. You can make that choice. YOU are in control of your actions and how you take care of your body.

REFUSE to let yourself get into an “all or nothing” mindset. I know it might seem difficult, but you have the choice to stop binging NOW. You also have the choice of believing if it’s hard or not (it doesn’t have to be). You can prevent the cycle from continuing yourself.

Every moment is born anew. YOU can change your life in any minute just by CHOOSING to. You can choose to break free just by taking the initial step to stop the cycle.

4. Take a walk and clear your mind.

If you hate walks, do something else that involves gentle movement, and remind yourself how much your body does for you. Realize how strong, how wonderful every movement is of the body you’ve been blessed with. Allow the movement to be light so your body isn’t under too much stress, but enough to reach a light equilibrium. Be loving and kind to yourself.

In addition, do other things you love, things that make you happy (that don’t just involve consumption!). Pamper yourself. This is the moment to do it– not when you’re eating normally and when you feel fine, but when you NEED something extra. That’s when breaking out the bath salts, going to a cafe or park, spending time with your partner, reading your favorite book. or watching your favorite movie is the MOST necessary.

5. Wait until your body is truly hungry, and then eat exactly what your body wants with the most mindfulness you can muster.

To be perfectly honest, for me, sometimes, it might take a whole day to feel hungry again after a binge. And that’s okay. I learn to be patient with my body, I know that if I eat before I’m truly hungry I might find myself smack-dab in the middle of another binge cycle again, so it’s a challenge to continue taking care of myself until I am hungry again.

Pay attention to your body’s signals. Don’t just eat again because it’s dinnertime or because someone bought food or because your friends or family are eating. Be patient. Listen to your body, and treat yourself right.

And when you DO eat again, make sure it’s something that will make your body happy. And eat mindfully. This means actually tasting your food, staying the moment, and enjoying it slowly. But make sure it’s something you want to eat, not what you think you “should” eat. Eat enough to be satisfied but not to the point where you feel like you’ve binged again. Then go on about your day.

6. Learn to love your body.

Because the cold hard truth is, you won’t get very far (or be very happy) if you continue to reject yourself and your body. And there’s no way to learn to binge less and be healthier if you don’t love and take care of your body.

Once you start loving your body, listening to your body, and learning to eat mindfully, you’ll find that you won’t need binging anymore as a way to cope and that you’ll be eating a lot better without even having to try.

So start loving yourself and your body more today.

Take small steps. Every minute is an opportunity for positive change, for lifelong growth.

(And here are some wonderful books that will help you learn to stop binging and transform your eating & your body image, too!)

how to be grateful for an uncontrollable, stuff-yourself-until-you’re-sick binge…

…within 30 minutes (or less) of having it.

 

I binged last night.

I binged last night because I was avoiding a simple task, procrastinating on a deadline, using eating as an excuse not to do it– “can’t start yet, I’m hungry, I’m eating, can’t do it right now.” I started honestly hungry and ended stuffed. In the middle of it, I knew I wasn’t taking care of myself super well… yet, at the same time, I was taking care of myself in the best possible way that I could have in that very moment.

Why? Because that’s what had happened. And I figure, that must mean I was supposed to learn something.

After I ate my last bite of an oily piece of baked dough and threw the rest of the way when I realized I wanted to stop– even if I was only three or so bites from having eaten an entire loaf– I breathed.

And I felt okay. I didn’t blame myself. I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t beat myself up about it or choose to feel bad about it or brood upon it.

chose to feel okay with it– feel great, actually!– in that very next moment.

We all have the choice. We can dwell on something that doesn’t exist anymore (the past), or…

Or, you know, we can do something to make ourselves feel better, feel good again, now.

We can take an event that may have caused us sadness or misery in the past and transmute it into an event we are grateful for, that we can not only forgive ourselves for but use as a tool to increase our strength.

  1. Thank yourself for nourishing yourself, for giving yourself sustenance (emotional or physical) when you needed it, for whatever reason that you did.
  2. Accept the fact that it happened.Gently let it go, realizing that it has already passed.

    Move on and do something that brings you true joy. Preferably IMMEDIATELY.

  3. Adopt a perspective of gratitude.i.e. …

    I’m grateful that my metabolism will be higher tomorrow since I revved it up.

    I’m grateful I’ll have extra energy just in case I forget my lunch tomorrow or don’t have time to eat breakfast.

    I’m grateful that I had this binge, since it was a challenge for me to overcome and become stronger. I’m grateful that I’ve learned something from this binge, that this binge has taught me something, and I have grown as a person.

    I’m grateful for the reminder, the reset, because unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately!), sometimes we do need a reminder once in a while to return to ourselves and really commit to our practice of self-love even more.

    I’m grateful that this binge has made me decide to take care of my body even more and nourish myself with healthy and vibrant foods, starting now.

    I’m grateful that this binge has inspired me to act in self-love with an even more feverishly fervent furor from now on.

    I’m grateful that learning from this binge has empowered me, and that I have chosen to empower myself by transforming the meaning of this binge, rather than disempowering myself by dwelling on what I didn’t like about the past.

The point is not to seek binges, of course; not to just passively accept endless and needless fests of stuffing ourselves empty with food instead of addressing the real roots of why we do it.

The point is that if a binge does happen, which it just does once in a while no matter how long we’ve been on the road of recovery, be able to get over a binge if it does happen, realizing that it is just another part of life’s challenges that we all go through once in a while.

It’s not really the act of the binge that matters so much as what you do after it– how you react to it, if you can learn from it, and if you can see it as a lesson and blessing rather than a mistake and a regret.

(Why, again, did I stop purging? Because accepting my mistakes means that I can learn from them, that I can actually grow and thrive as an ever-changing being. It means I can grow even more than I otherwise would have had I just tried to “erase” the mistake in a very destructive way. It means I can use my binges as a source of empowerment rather than discouragement, and forge a new fate for myself from the ashes of five minutes ago.)

*

If you need the reminder that you deserve to eat well & take care of your body, be sure to pre-order the YOU DESERVE BETTER poster! There’s only FIVE days left to pre-order, so take advantage of the early bird discount (& possible goodies and Pleiades too!?) before it’s too late ♥

why “you lost weight” is NOT a compliment

This is the first photo I’ve posted on this site that isn’t my own– it’s the work of Christi Nielsen, a photographer whose creations I’ve loved since even before my eating disorder intensified.

“You look good,” I said to my friend as she was leaving.

“So do you. You lost weight!”

I made a face. “I don’t take that as a compliment.”

“Why not? I’m jealous that you lost weight!”

That’s even worse were my thoughts… causing jealousy or envy in someone else because of how I look? I don’t want that!

Why do we do this? Why do we think it’s okay to comment on each other’s weight (I don’t even know what my weight is, so I honestly don’t know if I’m losing or gaining, and I like it that way!), as long as it’s about loss and not gain? Why is loss of our bodies something to be praised, while filling out our frames the last thing most people want?

If I had been sick with the flu and couldn’t eat for days and felt terrible, would it still be a compliment? Some people would still answer in the affirmative… what does that say about how we look at weight and body image?

For some, gaining weight is something positive– they’ve wanted to gain weight their whole lives, but find that when they do, their own, personal changes in body shape elicit behind-their-backs criticism rather than compliments. For some, gaining weight, having a fuller shape, becoming stronger, is a good thing. But other people might not see it that way.

For others, losing weight is something negative, yes, negative– a loss of vitality, a loss of life. Losing weight might be proof of a period of time where we didn’t want to even live, and lost our will to eat, and thus our will to thrive and enjoy everything in our worlds. Or a sign of sickness, of gauntness, of haunting shadows.

It’s not that I see the comment “you lost weight” as wholly negative (though I do cringe when I hear it). I just wonder why people find it so easy to say that, as if it’s a good thing, when saying “you gained weight” is a touchy subject. (Maybe not for people from my culture, though.)

My parents’ friends find it easy to tell me when I’ve gotten “fatter” or “skinnier”. While it doesn’t annoy me as much because I recognize the cultural differences (and the openness of talking about things like body shape as a way to “warn” the other person to be healthier), I still don’t enjoy hearing these types of comments. When the comment is that I’ve “slimmed down” I just say “Well, I eat more healthily now.” I’ve learned not to let it bother me, though, because it’s part of just accepting the culture of where I’ve come from, and it’s not something they’d be receptive to or even understand if I tried to change their mind about it.

But to my fellow peers, who have grown up in this insecurity-creating society infested with messages about how we’re not good enough especially if we don’t look like the 0.5% of the population who are supermodels, I don’t know what to say. Even if they see and judge whatever changes have happened in my physical appearance as automatically a good thing, I don’t.

So what can we say to someone who comments on our body, when we’d rather them not? Any suggestions?

I think I’ll go with:

“I loved my body before, and I love my body just as much now.”

I’ll personally try not to go off with ranting… “I don’t even know what my weight is, for all I know I’ve gained [muscle]– When I used to be super skinny, I was depressed and hated myself, and when I was at my heaviest, I finally learned to love myself and be happy.”

But the point is, weight really DOESN’T matter. And you might want to throw tomatoes or another choice of fruit at me for saying that. “But it does!” you might protest.

No, it really doesn’t.

How you feel about yourself matters. If you love yourself matters. The way you take care of yourself and your body’s needs matters. If you accept your body and yourself for what and who you are and then in turn appreciate and cherish that matters.

Because when I did barely tip the scale at a ridiculously low weight, I was insecure. I did hate myself. In fact, I didn’t even want to be alive back then!

And when I was much, much heavier than that, not too long ago– that’s when I learned to lovemyself. Take care of myself. Cherish myself. And learn, slowly but surely, true happiness, that doesn’t lie in perfect thighs or slimmer arms.

I would not trade in parts of my own beautiful flesh for that kind of self-hatred, self-violence, self-torture again. I would not trade in my current self-love, my blessings, my gratitude and appreciation of all things wonderful in my life for a lower number on the scale I don’t even check.

Never in a trillion, gazillion, bajizillion years.

Would you?

on being your body: you are not what you look like

You’ve heard me say (or read me write?) that you are not your body.

But as I was reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle the other day, I came upon a passage that made me realize that perhaps I’ve been framing it the wrong way. It discusses how many religions deny the body, but it’s not a far stretch at all to relate it to our own personal denial of our bodies

Why have most religions condemned or denied the body? It seems that spiritual seekers have always regarded the body as a hindrance or even as sinful.

Why have so few seekers become finders?

On the level of the body, humans are very close to animals. All the basic bodily functions– pleasure, pain, breathing, eating, drinking, defecating, sleeping, the drive to find a mate and procreate, and of course birth and death– we share with the animals. A long time after their fall from a state of grace and oneness into illusion, humans suddenly woke up in what seemed to be an animal body– and they found this very disturbing. “Don’t fool yourself. You are no more than an animal.” This seemed to be the truth that was staring them in the face. But it was too disturbing a truth to tolerate. Adam and Eve saw that they were naked, and they became afraid. Unconscious denial of their animal nature set in very quickly. The threat that they might be taken over by powerful instinctual drives and revert back to complete unconsciousness was indeed a very real one. Shame and taboos appeared around certain parts of the body and bodily functions, especially sexuality. The light of their consciousness was not yet strong enough to make friends with their animal nature, to allow it to be and even enjoy that aspect of themselves– let alone to go deeply into it to find the divine hidden within it, the reality within the illusion. So they did what they had to do. They began to disassociate from their body. They now saw themselves as having a body, rather than just being it.

When religions arose, this disassociation became even more pronounced as the “you are not your body” belief. Countless people in East and West throughout the ages have tried to find God, salvation, or enlightenment through denial of the body. This took the form of denial of sense pleasures and of sexuality in particular, fasting, and other ascetic practices. They even inflicted pain on the body in an attempt to weaken or punish it because they regarded it as sinful…

The fact is that no one has ever become enlightened through denying or fighting the body or through an out-of-body experience. Although such an experience can be fascinating and can give you a glimpse of the state of liberation from the material form, in the end you will always have to return to the body, where the essential work of transformation takes place. Transformation is throughthe body, not away from it.

The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle (emphasis mine)

I was wrong. The truth is not that “you are not your body.”

The truth is you are not what your body looks like.

But…

You are IN your body. And your body is a part of you, a part of what helps you function, to create and breathe and laugh and live. You can appreciate, love, & honor your body for what it does for you: the amazing way skin regenerates after a cut, how your body stores energy in the form of tender softness, how skin feels so good to the touch, how your joints help you move, walk, dance.

The size of your pants or the number on the scale, though? That has nothing to do with who you are as a person.

You are not the numbers on your clothes tags, you are not the digits on a scale, you are not your choice to wear make-up, you are not what your face or eyes or skin looks like, you are not the size of your ears or thighs or lips.

You are much, much more than that. Much more than numbers or sizes or complexion or nose shape or hairstyle could ever say about you.

Capisci?

the man who didn’t believe in love.

For anyone who’s ever loved anyone in any way… this is for you.

The Man Who Didn’t Believe in Love
by don Miguel Ruiz (from The Mastery of Love)

There was once a man who didn’t believe in love. This was an ordinary man just like you and me, but what made this man special was his way of thinking: He thought love doesn’t exist. Of course, he had a lot of experience trying to find love, and he observed the people around him. Much of his life had been spent searching for love, only to find that love didn’t exist.

Wherever this man went, he would tell people of his thoughts and opinions on love. This man was highly intelligent, and he was very convincing. What he said was the love is just like a drug; it makes you very high, but it creates a strong need. You can become highly addicted to love, but what happens when you don’t receive your daily doses of love? Just like a drug, you need your everyday doses.

He used to say that most relationships between lovers are just like a relationship between a drug addict and the one who provides the drugs. The one who has the biggest need is like the drug addict; the one who has a little need is like the provider. The one who has the little need is the one who controls the whole relationship. You can see this dynamic so clearly because usually in every relationship there is one who loves the most and the other who doesn’t love as much. You can see the way they manipulate each other, their actions and reactions, and they are just like the provider and the drug addict.

The drug addict, the one who has the biggest need, lives in constant fear that perhaps he will not be able to get the next dosage of love, or the drug. The drug addict thinks, “What am I going to do if she leaves me?” That fear makes the drug addict very possessive. “That’s mine!” The addict becomes jealous and demanding, because the fear of not having the next dosage. The provider can control and manipulate the one who needs the drug by giving more doses, fewer doses, or no doses at all. The one who has the biggest need completely surrenders and will whatever he can to avoid being abandoned.

The man went on explain to everyone why love doesn’t exist, and how what humans call ‘love’ is nothing but a fear relationship based on control. So many promises are made to each other: to live together forever, to love and respect each other, through the good times and the bad times but after marriage, you can see that none of these promises are kept.

What you find is a war of control to see who will manipulate whom. Who will be the provider? And who will have the addiction. You find that a few months later, the respect that they swear to have for each other is gone. You can see the resentment, the emotional poison, how they hurt each other, little by little, and it grows and grows, until they don’t know when the love stops. They stay together because they are afraid to be alone, afraid of the opinions and judgments of others, and also afraid of their judgments and opinions. But where is the love?

The man went on and on about all the reasons why he believed love doesn’t exist.

The one day this man was walking in a park, and there on a bench was a beautiful lady who was crying. When he saw her crying, felt curiosity. Sitting beside her, he asked if he could help her. He asked why she was crying. You can imagine his surprise when she told him she was crying because love doesn’t exist. “This is amazing—a woman who believes that love doesn’t exist!” Of course he wanted to know more about her.

He asked her why she felt that love doesn’t exist and she told him about her marriage and how she and her husband had both lost respect for each other. She told him about how they hurt each other, and at a certain point she discovered that she didn’t love him and that he didn’t love her either. ‘But the children need a father, and that was my excuse to stay and to do whatever I could to support him. Now the children are grown up and they have left. I no longer have any excuse to stay with him….There is no sense to look around for something that doesn’t exist. That is why I am crying.’

Understand her very well, he embraced her and said, “You are right; love doesn’t exist. We look for love, we open our heart and we become vulnerable, just to find selfishness. That hurts us even if we don’t think we will be hurt. It doesn’t matter how many relationships we have; the same thing happens again and again. Why even search for love any longer?”

They were so much alike, and they became the best friends ever. It was a wonderful relationship. They respected each other, and they never put each other down. With every step they took together, they were happy. There was no envy or jealousy, there was no control, and there was no possessiveness. The relationship kept growing and growing. They loved to be together, because when they were together, they had a lot of fun. When they were not together, they missed each other.

One day when the man was out of town, he had the weirdest idea. He was thinking, ‘Hmm, maybe what I feel for her is love. But this is so different from what I have ever felt before. It’s not what the poets say it is, it’s not what religion says it is, because I am not responsible for her. I don’t take anything from her; I don’t have the need for her to take care of me; I don’t need to blame her for my difficulties or to take my dramas to her. We have the best time together; we enjoy each other. I respect the way she thinks, the way she feels. She doesn’t embarrass me; she doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t feel jealous when she’s with other people; I don’t feel envy when she is successful. Perhaps love does exist, but it’s not what everyone thinks love is.’

He could hardly wait to go back home and talk to her, to let her know about his weird idea. As soon as he started talking, she knew exactly what he was talking about. She felt the same way. They decided to become lovers and to live together, and it was amazing that things didn’t change. They still respected each other, they were still supportive of each other, and the love grew more and more.

The man’s heart was so full with all the love he felt that one night a great miracle happened. He was looking at the stars and he found the most beautiful one, and his love was so big that the star started coming down from the sky and soon that star was in his hands. Then a second miracle happened, and his soul merged with that star. He was intensely happy, and he could hardly wait to go to the woman and put that star in her hands to prove his love for her. As soon as he put the star in her hands, she felt a moment of doubt. This love was overwhelming, and in that moment, the star fell from her hands and broke in a million little pieces.

Now there is an old man walking around the world swearing that love doesn’t exist. And there is a beautiful old woman at home waiting for a man, shedding a tear for a paradise that once she had in her hands, but for one moment of doubt, she let it go. This is the story about the man who didn’t believe in love.

Who made the mistake? Do you want to guess what went wrong? The mistake was on the man’s part in thinking he could give the woman his happiness. The star was his happiness, and his mistake was to put his happiness in her hands. Happiness never comes from outside of us. He was happy because of the love coming out of him; she was happy because of the love coming out of her. But as soon as he made her responsible for his happiness, she broke the star because she could not be responsible for his happiness.

No matter how much the woman loved him, she could never make him happy because she could never know what he had in his mind. She could never know what his expectations were, because she could not know his dreams.

If you take your happiness, and put it in someone’s hands, sooner or later, she is going to break it. If you give your happiness to someone else, she can always take it away. Then if happiness can only come from inside of you and is the result of your love, you are responsible for your own happiness. We can never make anyone responsible for our own happiness, but when we go to the church to get married, the first thing we do is exchange rings. We put our star in each other’s hands, expecting that she is going to make you happy, and you are going to make her happy. It doesn’t matter how much you love someone, you are never going to be what that person wants you to be.

That is the mistake most of us make right from the beginning. We base our happiness on our partner and it doesn’t work that way. We make all those promises that we cannot keep, and we set ourselves up to fail.

Last summer, I encountered this beautiful story, a story that woke me up to something that sadly isn’t more obvious to all of us: Being loved isn’t happiness. Loving others (and ourselves, first and foremost) is happiness. We are always responsible for own happiness; no one else can “make” us happy, and we cannot expect them to.

The number one mistake of any personal, human relationship– friendship, family, romance, or otherwise– is expectations. You cannot make anyone do anything and you cannot expect them to be or do anything except what they will be or do.

You can’t expect anyone to do anything other than do what they want.

If you’re willing to do something for someone else, it’s only because you want to. You have no obligation to them, and neither do they to you.

We all do what we want. We expect others to do what we would do for them? That’s honestly self-centered. No one thinks like any other person, we can never understand each other completely, and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of life.

Just because you expect someone to do something doesn’t mean they’ll do it. It won’t change anything or even make them move their pinky finger. So don’t expect anything out of other people or situations or experiences or anything you can’t control, and you can be happy controlling your own life and actions.

I forgive you

Dear Me,

I forgive you. I forgive myself.

I forgive myself for every time I might not have eaten healthily or done the best for my body. All the times during my eating disorder, and every time afterward. I forgive myself for having an eating disorder. For consuming nothing but water and then stuffing myself until I was sick. For the times in high school when I would eat five packets of microwaveable instant oatmeal, one after the other, at three in the morning.

I forgive myself for blaming myself when I was sexually assaulted. I forgive myself for being there; I couldn’t have known. I forgive myself for liking boys with girlfriends, liking boys who didn’t deserve me, liking boys who stamped my heart.

I forgive myself for having sex with boys I didn’t really like. I forgive myself for using sex as my only way of communication because I didn’t know how to love others and I didn’t know what to do about my body. I forgive myself for lying and for not being true about my feelings to myself and others. I forgive myself for not being able to tell him how I felt for five years. I forgive myself for not being as honest and as open as I wanted to be.

I forgive myself for hating myself. I forgive myself for the little white scar on my right wrist that I inflicted on myself in eighth grade. I forgive myself for all the other scars I made, etched into my skin, that have since faded into the fabric of the past.

I forgive myself for not being perfect. For not getting the perfect scores. I forgive myself for giving into the pressure of trying to be perfect and punishing myself with food.

I forgive myself for taking laxatives. For binging on junk food until my heart started racing because my body didn’t know what to do with the food. I forgive myself for scratching myself in the throat with my fingers. I forgive myself for not taking care of my body.

I forgive myself for depriving myself of sleep in the past. I forgive myself for choosing to abuse my body sometimes. I forgive myself for not resting when I needed to.

I forgive myself for stealing food. For stealing food from my roommates and my friend’s roommates and any food in any shared refrigerator I encountered when I was in the middle of a binge or even when I wasn’t. For stealing food and never mentioning the fact that the reason why some of the cookies or ice cream went missing was because of me.

I forgive myself for eating animal products sometimes, knowingly, ignorantly. I forgive myself for not asking sometimes whether there’s butter or milk in something because I just want to eat a certain thing. I forgive myself for not always eating perfectly vegan or perfectly healthy or perfectly raw or perfectly anything.

I forgive myself for sometimes eating food that I know I won’t enjoy, just because it’s there. I forgive myself for putting into my body things I believe to be harmful or unhealthy. I forgive myself for all the times I chose to eat until I was sick.

I forgive myself for sitting on the kitchen floor crying and drinking tequila from the bottle when I was 16.

I forgive myself for every time I didn’t have time to do what I loved or gave into resistance not to move my body even though I knew it’d make me feel better.

I forgive myself for not really knowing how to connect with other people and really care about and love them for the longest time. I forgive myself for avoiding human connections and not knowing how to be a friend.

I forgive myself for ever thinking I was ugly and disgusting.

I forgive myself for the weekend in January that I binged on donuts and pizza and cookies and ice cream and then became bedridden-sick for the next week and a half. I forgive myself for the times I just didn’t feel like I belong in this physical shell. I forgive myself for the week in March when I just ended up feeling bad about my body and the dozens of donuts I forced into my system. I forgive myself for eating what I don’t even like.

I forgive myself for ever shaming my own body at one point. For ever engaging in “fat talk.” For actually internalizing the comments of my parents when they told me I was fat or ugly or stupid or anything else.

I forgive myself for being absolutely terrible to that boy who liked me in ninth grade. For being selfish and stupid and for playing games with him and making his life miserable. I forgive myself for being stupid and hurting people sometimes.

I forgive myself for lying, for not being open, for keeping secrets. I forgive myself for going through other people’s stuff and not respecting their privacy. I forgive myself for going through the pantries at my best friend’s house in high school when she was asleep and eating her family’s food.

I forgive myself for trying to have sex with an ex a month after I broke up with him out of self-pity and depression. For leaning on him and depending on him because I didn’t know how to take care of myself.

I forgive myself for not knowing how to take care of myself. For depending on others. For being needy when I was lonely. For not knowing how to love myself for so many years of my life.

I forgive myself for identifying with my body for so long, with this shell, not realizing that my appearance and my physical body really are not me. I forgive myself for every time I felt bad based on something external, something that wasn’t really me.

I forgive myself for not always knowing what is right for me. For not always doing what’s best for me, even when I know the right path. I forgive myself for being ignorant and silly and stupid sometimes. I forgive myself for making mistakes. I forgive myself for not making mistakes and being paralyzed with fear. I forgive myself for all the times I didn’t act when I knew it was better that I should.

I forgive myself for every time I gave into that voice, that voice of resistance, the lizard brain, fear. I forgive myself for every time I didn’t do something because of fear. I forgive myself for procrastinating and for not doing my work. I forgive myself for avoiding the true passions and purpose of my life for so long. I forgive myself for being blind and asleep.

I forgive myself for blaming myself for so long. For blaming myself and not knowing why I felt so guilty, so shameful for just being alive.

I forgive myself for not forgiving myself for certain things until now. I forgive myself for not letting go of certain things until now. And I forgive myself for all the things I forgot to forgive myself for.

& I forgive myself for forgetting sometimes. Forgetting to breathe. To relax. To love. To just be.

& I forgive myself for giving myself a hard time sometimes.

Hey, lovely…

I forgive you for everything.

Love,
Me

the road of self-love is not paved for slackers.

I loved myself very much in the moment I took this (I’m hugging myself, after all ;)), and that’s why I love this photograph.

I have a confession to make: I’ve been slacking off these past few months.

I’ve had several moments when I felt absolutely great about my health and how I was taking care of myself.

And I’ve had even more when I felt uncomfortable, sick, and numb.

I’ve ranged from eating happily and healthily one day, running and walking and doing what I love, to derailing into a body, mind, and soul-numbing session of stuffing myself for hours and refusing to move– sessions that often lasted weeks.

I’ve been getting quite a few messages from the universe nudging (or roaring at) me to remember to love myself, to be present, and to take care of my body better– some subtle, and some glaringly obvious. I got extremely sick to the point of being bedridden for a week, and I had other instances when I had a sour throat or cough (I hadn’t been sick at all for several years prior).

I even almost sliced off two of my fingers in a moment of mindlessness. (That story’s for another day.)

And yet I continued to slack off, despite these messages. I would go back to treating my body with love and respect for about a week, and then I would start to forget, let myself be mindless, and choose the easier route: doing whatever, not being present, acting mindlessly– regardless of how it would make me and my body feel.

The past two weeks were the final straw. In just one moment, clouded with unruly thoughts, ignoring the messages of my body, my self-love practice began to be ignored again. By whom else, other than myself? No one.

I chose to stop caring. I chose to stop working at something I’ve had to learn, over and over again: how to love myself. How to take care of myself. How to listen to my body. How to be gentle, giving, and grateful to myself. How to respect myself and my body.

I realized last night that enough is enough. I deserve better. And I’m going to give myself what I deserve.

And then I realized something else: Self-love is not for slackers.

Self-love is a constant journey that takes mindfulness, grit, and to be honest, hard work. Truthfully? It’s not for the lazy or the faint of heart. It takes real courage, perseverance, and a healthy amount of stubbornness against the too-easy-to-swallow messages from conformity, from people who don’t deserve to be in your life… and especially, from the messages you’ve accepted and told yourself. The fear.

The part of you that whispers seductively in your ear, begging you not to defy it: It’s just easier not to change. To stay the same. To never try. So why don’t we just stay here hating ourselves and treating ourselves like crap for a while, since it’s easier than to make any effort to learn to give ourselves any ounce of respect?

The part of you that tells you it’s easier to just stuff yourself tonight instead of treating yourself with care and trying to figure out what’s really wrong.

The lizard brain that tells you to stay inside, since it’s just easier not to start dancing or walking or running or biking or doing what you love with your body.

The part of you that says, Why bother even trying? It’s so much simpler to stay put. Let’s not put in the real work of trying to love ourselves, since it takes way less effort to not care.

Self-love takes constant reminders, constant mindfulness, constant awareness. It takes strength and power and courage (which you already have and just need to tap into!). It takes work– not just daily work, but every-moment-work, every-moment-awareness, every-moment-presence, every-moment-consciousness.

You can’t slack. You can’t give up. You can’t just say, “Screw it all, I’ll just overeat tonight, even if it’ll make me sick tomorrow morning… it’s just for tonight!” You can’t just say, “Well, I haven’t moved from my chair or taken a walk in a month… guess I just won’t do it today, either.”

You have to keep pressing on. You have to persevere. You have to persist.

You have to keep going, even when it seems the hardest. You especially have to persevere, take care of yourself, and love yourself in those hard times, because if you aren’t there for yourself when you’re falling apart, well then… who will?

You can’t give in to the thoughts that tell you it’s just easier to stay where you’ve always been and not love yourself, even though it can be so tempting just to listen to them and give up.

Do you know why that is? Because those thoughts are true.

It does get easier to love yourself as time goes on. But truly giving yourself the love and respect you deserve will always take constant awareness. The journey will always require you to wake up and pay attention to how you’re treating yourself at all times. It will always require you to remember that this is the most important relationship of your life, and you have to treat it like what it really is– a persistent consciousness of how you’re treating yourself and taking care of yourself and listening to yourself and giving yourself what you need.

But in the end, I know that none of what I’m saying here applies to you, huh?

Because you’re not a slacker. You know the work that goes into learning to love yourself, and you’re ready to put that effort in, and continue on the never-ending journey of self-love, constantly bringing yourself back to the moment, constantly taking care of yourself. You’re already taking the first or thousandth steps, you know what you’re doing, you realize that self-love is not the destination but the neverending journey, and you’re embarking on that path right now.

Thankfully, the road of self-love is paved for persevering, hard-working, amazingly wonderful warriors like you. 🙂

Isn’t that awesome? ♥

a manifesto: we don’t have to

We don’t have to follow in our mother and father’s footsteps.
We don’t have to treat our children the same way we were raised.
We don’t have to teach them how to fear, how to worry, how to dislike themselves, how to forget how to dream and play and imagine and live in the moment.

We don’t have to abuse ourselves, everyone we encounter, or the planet that provides us with a home.

We don’t have to believe that talent or skills or fulfillment or contentment lie outside of us in fancy equipment or expensive gadgets.
We don’t have to believe that happiness lies within the accumulation of material stuff. Or anything external at all.

We don’t have to follow the rules that someone else wrote out years ago, expecting us to obey without question.
We don’t have to listen to the shoulds or should nots.
We don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards.

We don’t have to mistreat the earth, pollute the sea with plastic, waste water, or waste our money.

We don’t have to hate ourselves, feel depressed or guilty, not take care of ourselves, feel terrible when things don’t go our way, punish ourselves, let the external dictate our emotions, think negative thoughts.
We don’t have to believe we’re weak, give up when things get tough, lose hope in life when it’s just trying to teach us something.
We don’t have to believe we can’t be happy just loving and being ourselves.

We don’t have to judge others before we even get to know them, hate others because they’re not like us, hold grudges, blame others for our circumstances.
We don’t have to believe that people are either “good” or “bad”, or that “evil people” exist at all.
We don’t have to put ourselves in neat little boxes, give ourselves labels of what we are and what we aren’t, pigeonhole everyone else who we think is “different”, and distance “us” from “them”.
We don’t have to believe that there even is a “them” separate from “us” to begin with.

We don’t have to believe we’re not beautiful just because we have short legs, long legs, no butt, big butt, flabby arms, strong arms, short fingers, long necks, big ears, bushy eyebrows, no eyebrows, big feet, thick feet, wide feet, small hands, short hair, long hair, frizzy hair, straight hair, nappy hair, little hair, no hair, stretchmarks and cellulite.
We don’t have to believe we’re not beautiful because the movies and the magazines and the media tell us a terrible untruth.

We don’t have to believe we’re just a number on a scale, a shirt, or a driver’s license. We don’t have to define ourselves by the brands we wear, the color of our hair, or anything outside of our souls.

We don’t have to believe we’re not smart just because they told us we weren’t, because we don’t speak ten languages, didn’t do well on the SAT, don’t get straight As, never went to college, didn’t make the honor roll, completely tanked a class or test or two or three, refused to accept that a dogmatic professor was absolutely right, didn’t graduate middle school, would rather chase our dreams than sit at a desk.

We don’t have to deny our natural selves.
We don’t have to hold back our hunger, our laughter, our flatulence. Our sweat, our scent, our scars. Our sexiness, our sexuality, our sex drive. Our menstruation, our erections, our wet dreams, our fun dreams, our tears.

We don’t have to eat mindlessly just because advertisements and marketing aimed to make us unhealthy say so.
We don’t have to use self-harming addictions to numb ourselves or escape from our lives.

We don’t have to be ashamed of our unshaved legs, unperfumed armpits, unpainted fingernails, untrimmed toenails, unstyled hair, unpainted faces.

We don’t have to hide our true beauty.
We don’t have to hide who we are.
We don’t have to wear the clothes, have the body, fit the size, look like the actor or the model.

We don’t have to be scared anymore. Of flying, of being wonderful, of being ourselves, of talking to new and exciting people, of going for what you thought impossible, of asking that cute sweetie out, of rejection, of acceptance, of trusting ourselves and others, of letting go, of healing, of moving on, of loving and living limitlessly.

We don’t have to listen to our brother, sister, mother, father, best friend, stranger, lover, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, teacher, mentor, therapist, cousin, who tells us we’re not good enough– no matter how much we love them.
We don’t have to believe a bar of “good enough” even exists.

We don’t have to suppress, deny, or otherwise squelch our awesomeness.

We don’t have to pretend anymore. Not for a single second longer.