Last night I watched, for the second time, the movie "The Fault in our Stars". At first glance it might seem to be a movie about cancer and death, but it really is a movie about life.  In reality, we have all been given a diagnosis of death, a final deadline of sorts.  It's the nature of being human.  Some receive it earlier in life and with a bit of notice, some get to watch it coming gradually after many years, and others get it handed out in only a moment's notice.  Knowing this, I wonder why most of us go through life on auto pilot, numbing ourselves with various addictions and doing everything in our power to try to not feel life?  Life is meant to stir our emotions, and as a line in the movie says "Pain demands to be felt." 

Most of us have had some sort of experience where we awoke one morning thinking it was just another day, but by the end of it, something had happened that had forever altered our life as we had known it.  I've received my wake-up call.  Now I vow to live an inspired life, to engage in the world everyday with a sense of passion, to share the gifts and talents I've been given, to love and be loved, and to treasure each precious breath.  Will you join me?

Donuts.  There’s just something magical about the power of donuts:  the fragrance of fried, glazed sweetness, the melt-in-your-mouth gooey softness, and their ability to numb any sadness, disappointment or suffering.  The problem is that now I know how destructive their magical power is, not only to my physical health, but also to my emotional health.  I have learned that though numbing my feelings in the moment feels, well, like nothing, and that is the point, I’ve also learned that numbing doesn’t actually make those feelings go away.  Instead, they sink to the bottom of my heart, building up, waiting to sabotage all the good in my life.  I become a time bomb with unexpressed and unresolved feelings, just waiting to implode.

Denial is a beautiful thing.  Our vision in the moment can be so skewed that we are able to completely fool ourselves.  Though I suspect I’ve been numbing my emotions for most of my life, I’ve been able to do it in such a way that even I didn’t know I had a problem.  I never let my weight get really out of control nor have I ever binged in the presence of others or to the point of purging.  Sometimes moderate problems are the worst because they can remain hidden for a long time, slowly and gradually eroding away our health and self-esteem.

I remember one incident 12 years ago quite clearly.  I had just become a Mary Kay sales director and I was meeting three others in a nearby city at the home of the senior director.  As it was also a celebration brunch to honor me, we were all asked to bring a small food item to share.  I was feeling so inadequate, insecure, unworthy and late that I forgot to grab something from home.  I stopped by a small convenience store on the way and grabbed, you guessed it, donuts!  A box of mini balls of goodness.  Did I mention I was running late?  Tension started to rise.  Traffic and more tension.  The thought of walking into a door and a circle of women in which I was sure I did not belong created even more tension.  I could not possibly show up to a joyous event radiating anxiety.  I desperately needed to temporarily “fix” the situation.  Perhaps I could open the box carefully, have just one, and no one would notice.  Just one more.  Well maybe just one more.  At some point, I became so distracted with the “just one more” that I had to suddenly slam on my breaks to avoid running a red light.  The box of goodness toppled off the passenger’s seat, spilling its contents all over the floor.  What did I do?  Well of course before that light turned green, I scrambled to reach them all and scoop them back into the box, placing it securely on the seat beside me.  “What have I done” is the thought that seeped into my realization as I glanced at that now half-empty box containing donut holes sprinkled with shoe dirt.  I’m in the neighborhood, just around the corner from where I need to be, and I have a half-empty box of gross donut holes to contribute.  How tacky!  I cannot hand those to the host!  I cannot leave them in the car, because what if someone sees them? So yes, I quickly stuff the rest of the balls of not-so-much-goodness into my mouth.  I don’t even taste them this time.  Some ugly monster has taken over my body, shoving in food I don’t want in order to suppress emotions I can’t allow myself to feel. 

Fast forward and here I sit.  It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, lots of big transitions in my life, and I suddenly smell donuts.  I’m sitting in my living room, but I swear that scent wafting in the air is real.  The bakery in my mind is tempting me, begging me to numb life again.  I acknowledge what is happening, and I resist.  One small victory.  These are the bricks that pave the road to transformation.  One choice at a time.

I know the sadness of these recent changes is building up.  I know it needs to be released.  I know for some reason I am not ready to fully feel it.  I’ve alerted my kids, in case one day they come home and find me crying over dinner, they’ll know it’s not about the food.  Well, at least not that food! If, or more accurately when, I collapse into a puddle of tears, at least now I know I will surely not drown.

The first copy of my book just arrived. Wow! It's exactly how I imagined it. The sense of accomplishment I feel right now is undeniable.

When it arrived I was headed out for lunch so I took it with me. It was on the table beside me. I watched someone pick it up, drawn in by the cover and comment "how beautiful". She turned it over and read every word on the back.  She then opened it up, looked through the initial pages, read the intro, 1st chapter, quickly turned the page, and started the 2nd chapter.  Finally she looked up and said "how can I get a copy?"

This is 106 pages of my most significant moments, the difficult, joyous, and funny. To see someone react in that way.....well....there are just no words......

Deep conversation…it’s one of my favorite things.  I know it has been deep and meaningful when I’m left with food for thought that lasts long after the conversation is over.  

 “You must have been born falling in love,” said the radio host who was interviewing me this weekend.  I’ve been mulling that over for two days now, and I think she’s right. My first love came when I was in 7th grade.  As a parent, I now look at my 7th grader and think, really?  But I was sure I was in love.  The first time he held my hand in the back of a church van returning home from rollerskating was pure magic!  It was around that time that I also remember writing a novel, a love story of course.  With many pages but not the entire story complete, one day I just tossed it in the trash.  I don’t know why, but it may have corresponded with that initial love moving on to high school and breaking up with his junior high girlfriend!  That was the first time I knew my heart had been broken, and likely the point at which the door started to close.  I have a tender heart and am very sensitive.  So needless to say, those moments of feeling crushed and closing the door a little more came frequently.

I’ve decided to stop putting so much pressure on others to tend to my heart and finally am learning to tend to my own.  I am aware this will require balance because tending to our own can often end up being just another excuse to build more walls.  Ultimately as one born to fall in love, I am now learning to fall in love with myself, to fall in love with life. 

Of course, if you’ve been in a relationship with me, you may not believe this to be true.  I’ve worked really hard to wall off my heart and be sure the entrance is securely locked.  But with all that, my natural state is still love.  Perhaps we are all like that.  We come in with our hearts open but as we age, we allow experiences to wither our capacity to give and receive love again.  I’m working as we speak to reverse that process, to remove the walls and unlock the door.  Though I’ve made great progress, I’ve just realized that a recent experience has again left me wanting to slam it closed.  So how do I resist the urge and continue to remain open?  With courage. 

We've all heard the phrases "live in the present", "be mindful", etc., and both are a very good idea, but what does that mean exactly?  If I am to be mindful of every moment, then that has to be EVERY moment.  Sometimes it's easy to be fully present if I'm in a moment that I think I want to be having, but if I find myself in some moment that I don't want to be having, then it is far more difficult!  Staying present means feeling the love, grief, joy, frustration, excitement, and fear.  We must stay present and feel all of it, whatever this moment is offering.  Developing this muscle is much like creating other habits in our life.  It takes practice. 

I was recently having a conversation with someone in which we were discussing dating relationships.  When we are new to dating, it is less about whether a current relationship lasts or not, and more about the kinds of patterns we are developing in terms of how to navigate relationships.  Creating effective habits in navigating relationships is key to having relationships that are healthy and happy as we move through life.  What habits have you developed?  Do you lean into conflict, or do you run?  Do you express yourself authentically, or do you mold yourself to fit someone else's ideal?  Do you hold differences gently, or do you criticize everyone who is not like you? 

As a child I was blessed with a naturally thin build and could eat whatever and how much of whatever I wanted and never gained a pound.  None of that was a problem.  The problem is that because of that natural blessing I never learned the value in developing effective eating habits or giving my body proper fuel to keep it healthy and strong.  As we all know, as adults our metabolism often changes and suddenly that naturally thin body is not as easy to find!  When times of emotional stress hit, I find myself craving all those foods I could eat as a child with no consequences.  Only now, yes you guessed it, MANY consequences!  Because I didn't learn healthy patterns as a child and young adult, I am now having to reprogram myself as an adult.

I believe mindfulness is the same way.  We develop habits of being fully present, one moment at a time.  If I have something exciting coming up and spend all my moments leading up to that time dreaming about it and not being fully present with what is at hand right here, right now, then it's likely I won't be able to remain fully present for the exciting time either.  Our present behavior is often a good indicator of our future behavior.  For years, as the new year resolution time approached, I was the one who said "tomorrow is the first day I start getting into shape!"  It wasn't until I was ready to say "today I do something to help my body feel healthy" that change occurred.  It has to happen today, or it will never happen.  Today is all we have.  What patterns are you developing and/or strengthening within yourself today?

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