Love Letters to Mother Nature: # 3

Dear Mother Nature,

I imagine your canyons to be the intestines of the world, taking in and digesting all we feed you- the junk foods, the health foods, the superfoods.  We give you madness, terror, anger, fear, doubt.  It’s no wonder why you regurgitate in hurricanes and tornadoes sometimes.   But we also give you happiness, hope, love, and so much more.  In return, we receive sunny blue skies, shooting stars, and gentle, cleansing rains.

You also nurture us with love.  For us, you eliminate what you can of the bad and give the rest of your body, and us, your children, the good.  The healing.  We don’t always return the love, but you still keep giving.

Mother Nature, you continue to astound me.

In these canyons, you swallow me whole.  I feel so small, yet so connected with the rest of life.  I may be tiny, but I am vital.

Most of all, you swallow me in your love.  All of my parts-the beautiful parts and the parts I deemed as mistakes.  You accept all of it.  I am learning to accept all of me too.

Last, I wanted to let you know that I love you too.

Yours Forever & Always,

Ray

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Supergirl: The Bravest, Toughest Dog in the World

At this time, I’m not able to really write about Supergirl’s recent encounter with a HGE, which led her to Alpenglow, an Emergency Vet Clinic.  Below is my FB post, along with a link to the GoFundMe page my sister started to help take care of the $7,000+ bill.  I was away in the canyons of UT while the event occurred, by my sister describes what happened on the page.

My love and gratitude for everyone’s support, donations, prayers, and well wishes.

My FB post:

“30 hours after finding out that my baby was so sick while I was a way, I am still feeling a tornado of emotions. Mostly, I’m feeling enormously (x the moon and back) grateful that she is okay and that she had the best support team in the world surrounding her.

There’s also the guilt, whether rational or not, that I wasn’t there when Pacer needed me the most and all the “what ifs” that go along with that. That she was hooked up to an IV, heart machines, and was so scared…and I, her mom, was absent. There’s sadness and anger at myself, my naivete for going into the wilderness without any contact to loved ones, and at my school’s policies for only having on outgoing phone.

But again, overriding that is my overwhelming gratitude to mine and Pacer’s heroes and angels: SandiJoshua, and Sage. She probably would not be alive without them, which means a part of me would have died too. Everyday, all three of them went to see Pacer at each of the 3 visiting times. That they decided to foot the bill up front, no questions asked. That they interrogated the nurses and doctors. That my dad told Sandi “do whatever it takes”. That Sandi broke down, shedding her tears and my own. That they called everyone possible at Naropa, all the rangers and visitor centers near Natural Bridges National Monument, and every other medium they could to try to contact me on Saturday night when they were worried she wasn’t going to make it. I could have asked nothing more of them…they did everything I would have done. Them telling me that they would “do anything for you and Pacer”. They kept my baby, my adventure partner, my best friend, the love of my life, my therapist, my resiliency, my unconditional love, alive.

I also have a HUGE amount of gratitude for Alpenglow Veterinary and everyone who has texted, called, and messaged me to see how Supergirl is doing. THANK YOU to everyone who has made a donation, prayed, and sent their loving energy. I apologize if it takes me a few days to reply back…my nerves are still a bit frayed.

Pacer, my brave, brave girl, is truly living up to her nickname Supergirl (even the nurses started calling her that!). She is eating a bit again, going for short walks, and even made an attempt to chase Joshua’s cat (which we ended when I thought the “meeting” was too much stress for Pacer and myself).

Sandi, Joshua, and Sage: Thank you x a million. I’ll never be able to repay you for this. I love you all to the moon and back.”

Supergirl’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/pacersmedicalbills 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Letters to Mother Nature: #2

7/26/2017, San Juan Mountains

Dear Mother Nature,

Love is the word popping into my mind right now.  Love for this valley, for Pacer, for the mountains, for the sky, for my body, for my whole self.  And love for the boy too (even if I won’t tell him so).  How is it than I can feel it so strongly, so freely now up here?

In my book, I just read about a study that revealed that viewing/being in nature generates a sense of “awe” that in turn gives a sense of contentedness and peace which can enhance productivity and creativity.

I’m guessing this sense of awe isn’t too far off from love.  With that, knowing deep down, even if I can’t always feel it, that I am part of this awe too.

Is it in the beauty of the awe that I find love?

It can’t be.

I think it has more to do with my connection.  But, in my present human state, I can’t completely reach the depths of it.  It’s like my roots are just brushing the core of the matter.  Yet, when I let myself be still, the upwards energy of the love still embraces me.

It’s getting cloudy.  I’m beginning to have goose bumps.  I wonder if I should continue walking or head back.  The next turn in the road captivates my attention.

Love,

Your Daughter

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Love Letters to Mother Nature: #1

Aspens Aglow

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I’m just a short hike up from the Fourth of July trailhead in Indian Peaks Wilderness, sitting on a larg boulder with my best friend, Pacer (an Australian Shepard). Before us are several small, bright yellow leafed Aspens interspersed among the pines. The sky is playing with us. As times it has been dark with clouds and a light rain tickles my cheek. The woods feel sacred when it is like this. Minutes later the sky clears. The sun shines on us through the Aspen leaves, aglow. But at this very moment as I write, the sun slips behind the mountain to our southwest. I sit and close my eyes. All I can do is breathe in the crisp air, smelling the dying leaves. I notice my hiking partner is finally sitting still for once, with the same breeze that is blowing through the Aspens also gently playing with her fur.
I don’t feel young, like I do at times in the summer when I am running down on trail. Nor do I feel old. I just am. I wonder if this is how the trees feel. Not tired, but just ready for a slow down. Along with the trees, I am fully here for this change in season.
Driving back along the bumpy, Aspen and pine strewn trail towards the town of Eldora, I wonder: what if there was a nature attachment theory*? A theory that stated all living things are connected, from the dirt to the sky, from trees to humans. And if one was to let herself slow down, to remove the superficial thoughts and things and just be, that she would be able to re-connect with the wilderness, to be held by Mother Nature. In this re-connection, healing from the trauma of the “created” human world would be found.

The attachment to Mother Nature has all the love and safety one needs to be securely attached. In this oneness with nature, humans could become whole within themselves and with the world.

(In what will be a series of my Love Letter to Mother Nature, this first love letter was written in September of 2016 as a class assignment. )

*Learn more about attachment theory here:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201307/how-your-attachment-style-impacts-your-relationship

https://clintonpower.com.au/2012/07/wired-for-love/

 

The Broken Parts: An Ode to Gestalt

The Broken Parts

Dear Beautiful,

Can you love me wholly, for all my parts?
The parts that you thought were bad, ugly, and broken?
The parts that were never bad, ugly, or broken at all,
but really the most beautiful parts of you?

These are the parts that are the most painful…
but they are part of you and they are gorgeous.
You are gorgeous.

If you love these parts
they may open themselves back to you.
Now they are a bit timid

They are scared to enter the light for fear they will only be shut out again.

Be patient.
Be willing.

Now you are scared of losing your freedom.

When you used to run
it was as if your soul was breaking out of you.
Those broken parts of you,
the parts you hid away,
could finally inhale the world.
In the breath of Mother Nature,
they too could breathe in your untamed stride.

Beautiful,
don’t you see?
That freedom you felt running
came from inside of you.
It is and will always be inside of you.

Whether healing can be physical is still an unknown.
The healing of your soul is always available to you,
my dear Love,
if you accept the broken parts of you.

“If you love me,
if you accept me”,
they scream
“we can become Whole”.

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Adventuring with Supergirl: A Few More Tips and Tricks of the Road/Trail

The majority of mine and Supergirl’s adventures involve car-camping: driving to a camping spot near a trailhead and hiking or running from there. And so, when we camp I have all my gear, food, and clothes accessible and often within 10-20 feet of my tent. Quite convenient, especially when I wake up freezing in the morning then jump in the car and blast the heat until I warm up.
However, as “luxurious” (aka “glamping”) as this may sound, this can easily turn into a disaster if things aren’t organized. Furthermore, if I don’t have good directions or a working GPS (yes, I have an old-school GPS that plugs into the car) this can make finding a trailhead extremely frustrating. Then there’s food, cleaning up, finding the best route, etc. While I’m still learning (and driving in circles) here are a few of mine and Supergirl’s tips on how to get the most of your adventure and keep the “wild and free” spirit.
Organizing Your Car:
At the start of summer, one of my biggest questions was about how to organize my car and keep Supergirl safe. While my organization of food, clothes, gear, and dog by far is not the most structured, I found something that works relatively well for the two of us: in the rear, I bunjeed down my camping/gear bin. This is also where Pacer stays and still has over half of the space in the back. In the middle seats, I put my basket of clothes behind me, dry food and utensils in a basket in the middle, and the cooler on the other side of that. In the foot space behind the driver’s space, I keep the water jugs and my shoes, while Pacer’s food is kept on the passenger side by the cooler (that way I can easily get mine and Pacer’s dinner going at the same time). Next to me in the passenger seat, I usually keep my backpack. I can also might hang a towel, jacket, or hydration pack from  some of the seats.


Showers:
I would love to be a girl who could go a week without showering and shaving, and I have, but most of the time, I feel a lot better if I can clean up a bit after 2-3 days.
In most towns, I can find a visitor center and they will easily point me in the direction of a rec center, laundromat, campground, or even a motel that offers showers. Usually, they cost a few bucks. At other places, like the showers in Buena Vista at the park, showers are 4 quarters for 4 minutes…this means you’ve got to be ready with soap in one hand and a razor in the other, but totally doable!
Then there’s the creek option, usually freezing from snowmelt coming off the mountains. This of course is a great, free option…unless you are already freezing your butt off or there are fisherman lining the creek. Then, some improvisation is needed.
On my last trip to Montana (really Bozeman, get with it! The only place that offered public showers only offered them until noon-when I was still hiking or running)

Or, you can do the super-efficient but maybe not so effective shower:  Find an empty container in your car (honestly, I’ve used an old salad bowl), and poor a minimal amount of water over your head.  You don’t need much of your precious water supply (more on that below)!  Just dip any long strands of hair into the bowl to get them wet.  Then, apply soap/conditioner and poor a bit more water over your head.  You might not get all the soap out, but at least your hair now has more shampoo in it than dirt.  THEN, use the soapy (and slightly dirty) water in the bowl to shave and/or wash off “some” of the dirt on the rest of your body.
Maps
I highly suggest that before your trip, you get a map of the trails in the area. If you can’t find one locally, I would plan on driving directly to the visitor center, ranger station, or the local outdoor retailer that is near the trails you wish to explore. Of course you can find  routes and driving directions online, but these aren’t always correct. Plus, I am a total nerd about my growing map collection!
Water
Water is, obviously, essential. Every few days I find myself in a store or a gas station to buy a few more gallons. If you have a filtration system, you could save yourself quite a few bucks by just getting water from the creek. However, I have a filtration straw that I just attaches to my hydration bladder, so it is not very feasible in other situations. Another trick to save a few bucks is that every time you stop in a gas station, visitor center, or coffee shop, bring in a water bottle to fill up. I’ve also filled up my hydration bladder too by keeping it in my backpack when I head in to a coffee shop.

*After talking to some friends, they reminded me that I could use a water-bottle, like a re-used Smart Water bottle, with my filtration straw!

Food

As many of you already know, I am plant-based and vegan.  I’m not about to sacrifice my morals or nutrients when I’m on the trail!  Breakfast is usually oatmeal, a banana, and tea.  Before I leave my place, I usually pre-mix it with cacao and flax/chia seed.  Lunch is almost non-negotiable (save for when I am backpacking).  I always have my super-ginormous salad.  I usually make a few ahead of time before I head out, and then hit up a grocery store in town to restock.  For dinner, I have 3 go-to JetBoil meals:

1. Pasta- Usually, I prefer organic black bean noodles with organic sauce from Trader             Joes, with a bunch of extra veggies thrown in.

2. Soup-  Again, Trader Joe’s has a few vegan and organic options that come in a box,             but most places sell Amy’s organic soups. I’ll add in some more veggies and/or noodles     too.

3. Stir fry:  I start the rice first, then add in veggies and black beans.  Then I just throw           on some seasoning and tamari sauce.

O, and I sprink almost everything with nutritional yeast!  It add some extra flavor and a good does of B12.

*Please share any of your favorite vegan camping meals!

Expect “Mis”adventures
Anytime you are driving to a new place, I would simply keep it in your mind that not everything will go as planned. This isn’t to say things will go wrong…just that they probaly all won’t go right. It might be difficulty finding a trailhead, not finding a camping spot, or be pouring rain. Really, it’s all part of the adventure.

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“Pacer, how the heck did we end up here!?”  (Ibex City, Leadville, CO)

*Shortly after writing this post, I started to have car trouble.  After a bout of anxiety and finding a car repair shop, I was amazed at how well thing turned out.  From the shop, Pacer and I headed up on a 4 hour hike to old mining sites (and got a really good deal on the service!).  However, just to let this lesson sink in a bit more, we then got stuck for an hour on the highway waiting for an accident to clear up.

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Again, this is just a short list of tips Supergil and I learned this year. You can find some great articles on the subject on iRunfar.com, like this one:
http://www.irunfar.com/2014/10/camping-on-the-run.html
Also, for information on personal safety as well as taking your best 4-legged friend along, check out my past posts:

https://adogandhergirl.com/2017/06/06/women-of-the-wild-part-2-safety-and-sexism-on-the-trail/

https://adogandhergirl.com/2017/08/18/dog-stuff-adventuring-with-supergirl/

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” -John Muir

“Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you.  You must travel it for yourself.”-Walt Whitman

 

 

Coming & Going: Society Adjustment Disorder

In the summer, Pacer and I are always coming and going: off to the mountains, returning to Boulder.  My camping bin stays permanently in my car.  When I decide to go, I pack my clothes, food, grab Pace, and GO.

When i write it like that, I sound like a true wanderlust gypsy.  The real truth is though, I’m not the romanticized traveler that leaves in the spur of the moment.  A lot of things are planned out ahead of time, especially the food.  I make sure I take at least a few days worth of healthy, wholesome plant-based meals with me.  Clothes goes by a bit quicker, especially later in the season, though some thought goes into the necessary layers.

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My somewhat organized car.

As for the actual leaving of the city, I typically leave an hour later than planned.  When I finally do get into my car, it’s never without a bit of fear, albeit a lot of it has to do with my 2002 Subaru not breaking down on the way their.  Then, there is getting lost, weather, and not knowing what expect.  There’s leaving safety and comfort behind.  A warm bed and locked doors.  Wifi.  Daily showers.  Shelter.

Last, ther is saying goodbye.  It is a blessing and a curse to have someone to miss.  I’ve never been great at goodbyes to loved ones, no matter how temporary it is.  My throat constricts, a heaviness fills my heart, and the sadness lingers in me as I drive away.  The brunt of it slowly dissipates with the miles.

Things start to change when I reach the mountains, when Pacer and I are long amongst the trees.  Fresh air, the breath of Mother Nature, fills my lungs and helps fill any voids in my heart.

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My nerves start to calm.  I don’t have the lure of the computer to draw me in and keep me up at night, just a book and my journal.

While I still miss the ones I left behind, it’s easier for me to remember that I return after my adventure.  The fear of the unknown turns into excitement.  For now, the loneliness (in addition to Pacer) is another companion.

Back in the arms of Mother Nature, her embrace feels like a source of security.  I know she’ll never leave me, though in the hustle and bustle of the city I all too often forget she is there.  In the mountains, I remember.  I set up my tent, Pacer and I snuggle in, and I am home.

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Going back to the city (even though it is Boulder) is a different story.

At the beginning of the summer, for me it was like the umbilical cord attaching me to my Mother was being ripped off.  Again I was lost.

Funny, because the day before I leave, I’m always looking forward to a hot shower, cooking with an normal stove (though I do love my Jetboil), and a cushy bed.  But then, as I leave the mountains, watching them get smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror, the choking sadness of goodbye comes back.  I’m leaving my loved ones, the high snowy peaks, the valleys of wildflowers, the music of the trees, behind.

When I get back to my “space” in Boulder, I dread the emails that await me, the drive down the street to the grocery store, the flood of constant noise.

This is what I call “society adjustment disorder“.   I first learned of it after hiking the Colorado Trail in 2015 and briefly broached the subject in my blog:

“In the 30 or so hours after completing the CT, I am fully immersed, but feeling quite awkward and separate, in normal society.  

I’ve already experienced over-priced motel rooms (though the shower was greatly appreciated!) and food, cigarette smoke, dining partners getting ignored over cell phones, and drives going too fast and swearing down the road despite the background of majestic mountains.  After seeing Steve [my then-boyfriend], he quickly updated me on the big news I missed in the world- reporters getting shot, another child rapist, wild fires around the country.

This is what I wanted to come back to?” 

If I’m not careful, it’s easy to get depressed, lost in thoughts of why humans have created things to be so complicated, losing the joy of simplicity.

The blow of society is softened by having someone to come back to, a lover to embrace and let me know I was missed.

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My “someone” to miss when I’m gone and happiness to come back to.

Still, I am careful not to let the bliss of re-uniting bypass the wisdom that I know underlies the sadness of my return back to society.  There is something in that sadness that I have to learn from, though I’m can just grasp the meaning now.*

What I do know is this:  While I may drive away from the heart of the wilderness, Mother Nature never truly leaves me, for our hearts are intertwined.  Second, the sadness I feel when leaving the mountains is the same sadness I feel when leaving a loved one.  They are really 1 of the same, with love at its’ roots. I also know it is up to me to seek beauty elsewhere, not just in finding it in the foothill trails of Boulder or the trees that line the littered block.  No, the beauty that I seek can only be uncovered in the hearts of the people I pass by.  It is often not as apparent as the beauty I’ve found in the valley of wildflowers, just above tree-line, and mountain lakes, but it is just as deep, just as pure.

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Within a few days back in the city, I’m back to my normal routine and my withdrawal symptoms fade.  I find happiness in my morning runs and a re-connection with other human beings as well as the nature around me.  The mountains still call, and I know I will go again.  For the time being though, the wilderness and love in my heart and in the hearts of those I walk past (even if they can’t see it for themselves) keeps me hanging around a bit longer.

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*Not to go too far off topic, but I also have a theory on this.  If you know psychology, you’ve probably heard of “attachment theory”.  Basically, it describes how our early attachments affect our attachments later in life.  Most of use have grown up with a severed attachment to Mother Nature, but if we are lucky enough to find it as adults, we can begin to heal.  I think are natural (no pun intended) connection to Mother Nature is so strong that when we leave, we feel the pain of once again separating from our Mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/3

Months ago, I remember hearing this statistic in a podcast*:  1/3 of people with an eating disorder (ED) never recover (and many die), 1/3 of people recover, and 1/3 of people stay in a gray area.

This gray area is what I want to explore.

The gray area goes largely unmentioned (and possibly unnoticed) by professionals in the field, though a few forward-thinking therapist and psychiatrist have recently looked into the matter more.  Just as bad for those “in recovery”, this issue also goes largely ignored and misunderstood by family, friends, and mainstream society.

I put “in recovery” in quotes for a reason because that is nearly impossibly to define.

This is where the gray comes in.

What does recovery mean?” asked a classmate of mine, repeating a question her boss, Dorie McCubbery and founder of the EDIT program, gave to her staff at Positive Pathways.

This question encapsulated my mind.  I had recently been exploring it on my own in regards to my own journey after dealing with and getting over the symptoms of Anorexia from 6th grade to my freshman year of high school.  (At the time, I was also exploring my body in a different way, having gone from ultra-runner to lucky-to-run.)

The symptoms, of course, involved being significantly underweight, severely limiting my intake of food, and needing to exercise everyday.

After threats of “we’ll stuff a tube down your throat”,  “you’ll heart will stop” and “you’ll never play basketball again”  I played the game.  I fooled my therapist (despite giving her the silent treatment for the majority of my sessions), my doctor, and my parents.  I gained the weight.  They got off my back.

But my mind remained in shatters.  My thoughts were still occupied non-stop by food and how my body looked.  When I became a tinge overweight during my senior year of high school, stuffing down my emotions after another bad basketball performance with peanut butter and jelly bagels with an extra side of peanut butter, I wanted to crawl out of my skin.  Once I even tried to cut myself out of my skin, but I lost the nerve and admitted not being brave enough to actually do it. (Now, I realize this was a positive sign that somewhere in me, I still had enough self-love to keep me from damaging my body.)

So what remained after the outward symptoms of the eating disorder disappeared?

The actual causes.

The OCD, the anxiety, the perfectionism, the depression.

Under that remained the underlying root:  I believed I wasn’t enough.  And I felt guilty for who I was.

No one ever addressed these issues with me.  No one understood that Anorexia-Nervosa isn’t a disorder of low body weight, but of low self-esteem. A lack of self-love.  It’s about the games the mind plays, the things it suggest you do to “make you worthy”, that you can never really live up to.  This is what drives a person crazy.**

The majority of my causes remained until my early twenties.  The healing process only began when I realized I had no other choice.  It was either figure out a plan to get better or go back down the dark path I had been keeping a toe down for years.

There were several things that occurred when I chose*** to get better,  I wrote in my journal, I repeated mantras, read self-help books,  spent time in nature, and I started volunteering. But the main thing is, I chose to get better.   I wanted more for myself.

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Taking the time to be still, to be curious about my thoughts, rather than judgmental.

Clearly, at least in my mind (contrary to the opinion of many traditional doctors), I was in the gray area the nearly 10 years between gaining an acceptable weight and deciding on my own to get better.

So where am I now?  Sometimes the answer to that changes by the day.  Normally I think of it as sunny skies (recovered) with passing gray clouds.  And honestly, sadly, I don’t think I’m that far off from how most women think of their bodies.

Most of the time, I’m pretty accepting of my body.  I appreciate what it does for me.  I thank it for the runs it gives me and even praise my legs for getting me up mountains.  I try to treat it well, feeding it plant-based foods.  I still push it hard sometimes, but I try to balance it out with Yoga, foam rolling, and rest.

My best times are when I’m in the woods, no mirror, when I can only judge my body by what it can do (taking me to some of the most beautiful places on Earth) and for how it feels out there in the wild: strong, powerful, beautiful.

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“Trail Glow”

But then I get back to civilization, to full-length mirrors, to pictures of sleek runners with rock hard abs on my Facebook feed.  I upload the pictures of Supergirl and myself from our adventure and force myself to post the ones where I think my legs look to large.****  I eat too much, following my dinner an hour later with a large snack and extra chocolate.  I try not to cringe when the man I’m dating touches my bare thighs, where my stretch marks are highlighted by my Colorado sun tanned legs.

Handies Legs
Despite having reached the summit of my 4th 14er in 3 days, I still had a hard time posting this photo because of the appearance of my legs (though I did later thank them for their strength.)

I’ve even dropped so low, last year during my brief relapse with depression, as to wish I was Anorexic again, or at least had the same will power to stay away from food.  But that’s what mental health challenges do to a person.  One can lose all rational, lose sight of the light that lies within.

Recently, my sister recommended to me a new movie out on Netflix, To the Bone, which portrays the story of a female with Anorexia and some of her struggles.  She wanted to know if I thought anything was triggering*****, both of us knowing that many well-intentioned movies, articles, and speakers can set off many negative habits, like talking about weight and “tricks” used (when hearing of another’s low weight, a person with an ED may make their goal to reach that weight or one lower.)  While there were several triggers (though I believe necessary to portray at least a partial true picture), Sandi may not have guessed the one that I found personally reminiscent, though not triggering (obviously, Sandi knows I am healthy and happy in who I am, now being on the path to obtain my master’s in counseling so I can help others who face the same challenges I once did):  the lead character Ellen/Eli often measured her arm by wrapping her thumb and pointer finger around her bicep.  I used to do the same thing, taking pride when my finger and thumb met.  It’s a habit I still catch myself doing from time to time.  I still have to remind myself that it is muscle that inhibits my hand from completing the full circle. (All in all, I found the film to be a hopeful vision to a path of recovery and a much better start to telling the story that some documentaries I have watched.)

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My biceps have a bit more muscle than they once did.

Despite my idiosyncrasies, I still allow myself the label of “recovered-with some clouds”.  After reading of my nuances above, some might think this is a bit of a stretch (while, on the other end of the spectrum, others may feel this whole blog is a stretch as my eating and body weight are relatively “normal”).  However, I have not mentioned the key factor, the factor that will keep me from every going back to an eating disorder:

I love myself.  

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“What you feel is what you are, and what you are is beautiful.”- one of my favorite lyrics by the Goo Goo Dolls

And because, after years of searching, I have found that unconditional love****** for myself, I only want health and happiness for myself.  I may be disgruntled when I feel like I am on my heavier side, but because my heart is rooted in love, I can handle it.  I also know that my life has a greater purpose.  I’m still here so I can help others spread their wings, to realize their own strength and beauty, and to reach their highest peak. I know I am more than my body, that I only shine bright when my soul is on fire with passion and purpose.

I had one profound experience this past spring, nearing the end of my first semester at Naropa.  I was in session with my practice student therapist, who I had spent several sessions with talking about physical challenges (athletic injuries) and past history.  As usual, she asked me how I was feeling about my body.  Before I even processed my response, the words “I love my body” came spilling from my lips.  I was surprised.  Not because this was the first time I had ever said this (I had repeated this line to myself in front of my mirror many times) but because I actually meant it.

I still think of myself as flawed.  I may have done irreversible damage to my body.  I have big feet.  My mind spins and I get lost inside of it.  But my flaws are part what make me, ME.  My flaws have helped me grow.  They enhance my light.  In spite of them I shine.

And if some clouds comes in, I can deal with that too.

But that is because I chose this path for myself.  I worked for it.  I have a sister and a dog who showered me with love.  Not all people with EDs have that.

Still, there is hope. There’s YOU.  You can shower others, not just those with EDs, with your love and light.  Letting then know the are ENOUGH, just by being who they are, no strings attached.

One last note:  Not all women/men who are pressured with ideals of a specific body image get EDS, nor does all people who try a drug or drink alcohol become addicted. Contrary to the sad but popular opinion that this is because those people are weak, I would suggest that it is because that these people are especially sensitive, suffering, and have a huge capacity to feel in all depths.  These people are actually like barometesr to what is going on in their lives and in society at large.  If, at the beginning, we start honoring these people and their gift, they can help show the rest of the world when things are off-balance. *******

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Love & Light,

Ray

*I have to say more about this podcast as I believe it is one of the best out there on eating disorders.  This discussion was held by Running on Om and features Lauren Fleshman and Melody Moore.  While it is directed towards female runners, it holds lessons on how we treat ourselves and talk to all people in regards to body image.  The quote begins at 1:02:45.

**Some people who put a lot of weight into semantics would be indignant with my use of the word crazy.  Thanks to my therapist who, when I apologized for using the word”, told me I can say what I want, I really don’t care.  In my personal dictionary, I consider crazy to be defined as a feeling of losing control, not necessarily or always related to mental illness.

***This is important for any family member dealing with someone with an ED/addiction.  Recovery has to be a choice.  Until a person makes that choice for themselves, all you can do is offer them your unconditional love for them (though I realize that for some, needing to step away from the person with addiction may be necessary for ones’ own self-care.  It’s not selfish, because when the person does decide they want to get better, you’ll be able to offer your full self and support.)  If you are able to love her/him despite the ED/addiction, they might be able to find love for themselves too.

****It’s true, I often still wear short-shorts that really only (but fully) cover my booty.  But I am still often uncomfortable in these shorts, especially when I see myself wearing them in pictures.  “Then why wear them?” you may wonder.  Because they give me some sense of being attractive enough, fit enough, to wear them.  So next time you see a girl walking down the street wearing shorts that you think are way too short for her, realize that she probably has a more meaningful reason to be wearing them that most would care to acknowledge.

*****The truth is, everything is triggering for someone with an eating disorder.  Food is everywhere.  Images of perfect bodies is everywhere.  And, most likely, reminders of “not being enough” are everywhere. No film that discusses the subject could ever not be  triggering nor would I recommend watching this film with someone currently with an eating disorder, at least not without supervision and leaving time to talk about emotional scenes.  While the film was limited to the struggles and journeys of someone with and ED, I believe it gave an accurate portrayal and kept in touch with the film makers and actress’s personal stories.  No film on this difficult subject matter will ever be perfect, but lets applaud those willing to take the risk and keep the conversation going.

******Special thanks to Supergirl for her lessons on unconditional love.

*******Check out Gabor Mate’s work for more.

 

 

 

The Power of a Skirt

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At the end of 2nd grade, I dressed up in a white dress, looking like a slightly pudgy doll. This was all so I could walk down the aisles of my Catholic church with my classmates, in front of a scary number adults, so I could receive the Eucharist, the body of Christ. (Insert quotations where you see fit). This sacrament is of course after Confession, where I told my 8-year old sins to a guy dressed in black and asked for forgiveness (I’ll skip the part where I was born with “original sin” for Eve eating an apple as that is not what this blog is about) so I wouldn’t go to Hell…

Just like in school, the boys got to wear pants, whereas in the classroom  I had to wear a pleated and itchy dress with shorts underneath so the boys wouldn’t couldn’t get a glimpse of my undies going up the stairs…

Needless to say, this didn’t encourage me to wear skirts or dresses any more than I had to, and after 2nd grade, I ditched them as best I could save for the school uniform I was forced to wear.

Actually, in 7th grade I went the ultimate dork route and traded in my skirt and knee-high nylon socks for a pair of khaki, ill-fitting pants that hid my then skinny legs and bony hips.

By that time, I was already disillusioned by the feminine ideal.  I did’t want hips or boobs because I wanted to stay fast for sports.  I didn’t want to get married only so I could have babies, which my religion teacher said was requirement of the sacrament.  I didn’t want to wear a skirt and give consent to the norm of being female, where it seemed that women were always second to men. (I was one of the kids questioning why a woman couldn’t be a priest in the Catholic church.) No man was going to lead my life, albeit a priest or a husband.

And I wasn’t going to be forced into a skirt.  I saw those pictures of women playing basketball in shin length skirts.  It not only looked uncomfortable but completely unpractical.  Eventually those women would fight to wear shorts.  In the office, women would fight to wear pants (the Netflix series “New of the Week”, while an overly-dramatic yet insightful series, featured a scene where the attractive lead wore pants to work on her birthday and was told to go back to a dress the next day).  Pants proved we were equal.

In my mind, skirts were “anti-feminist”.

That’s not to say I never wore a skirt again.  I had a few dresses for school formals (I went to two, including prom) and my cousin’s wedding, all which I now remember as being hideous dresses. As soon as I could, I quickly went back to my below-the-knee basketball shorts.

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Typical length shorts for me (I’m in the white shorts.  (My bf was mine and Sandi’s other twin.)

I eventually bought a pencil skirt at the end of college for a charity event and my first office job (while it was with the United Way, I was happy it was a temporary position!)

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I finally donated all of my old “office” clothes earlier this year.

Then in Tanzania, women had to wear skirts or at least pants that went past their knees.  I did my best to fit in.  My then boyfriend bought me a beautiful but too-fancy wrap skirt to wear there, but I also had an old skirt lying around, plus had 2 colorful skirts made by local women in the village, one to wear my to volunteer job and another short skirt to wear back home (which the seamstresses must have thought of as scandalous!).

It wasn’t until a few years after that when I realized how freeing a skirt could be.

While working with Girls on the Run and holding an event with one of their partners, Athleta, I bought a purple knee-high skirt. Stretchy, comfortable, but nice enough to wear to a meeting.  Perfect for a job at an organization empowering girls and women.

Then I bought a cheap sun dress at thrift shop in Jackson Hole,WY while exploring with Sandi.  I threw it on and was instantly casually dressed up.  Easier and more comfortable than jeans!

From there, I bought another sun dress, my “hippie”/Naropa full-length skirt, and my favorite Patagonia feather-patterned skirt that I’ve only washed once in 7 months.

I admitted to myself that I actually like wearing skirts.

They were not only comfortable, airy, and convenient, but I felt like I possessed an explicit feminine power whenever I put one on.  I couldn’t quite explain where the feeling was coming from.

With a bit more thought, I realized that when I rejected all skirts and dresses, it was another way for me to reject the feminine side of myself. the part of me that was nurturing, compassionate, and a warrior of love.

As I mused more deeply, I came to see that skirts weren’t “anti-feminist”.  Only the label I had given them was.  I reality, being a feminist meant wearing whatever the f*** I wanted and allowing other women to have that same choice.

Once it was easy to see women wearing running skirts* and think “really?” but now, while I still don’t foresee myself wearing one, I can assume that they are ultra-comfy and quite practical.  Even if they are “stylish” that’s okay!  I’ve seen guys wear a matching outfit too.  While I myself am perfectly happy to get dirty and go without showering for days in the woods, I believe a certain level of awareness and effort put into how one dresses is sign of healthy self-care and esteem rather than a purely narcissistic endeavor.

* Recently, I met Nicole DeBoom, Founder/CEO of Skirt Sports in Boulder, CO as well as former pro-triathlete.  If anyone needs proof that strong women wear skirts, simply look to her.

If we take just a moment to look at some of the strong women athletes who wear skirts, we break the “delicate myth.”  The first images that appear in my mind are Venus and Serana Williams.  Quads bulging, grunting with the power of their swing, dominating the sport of tennis and inspiring millions of girls, women, and men, all in skirt.  On the running side of things, I have images of Krissy Moehl, Anna Frost, and Cat Bradley, just to name a few, completing ultra-distances in a skirt.

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Cat Bradley, winning Western States 100.

While I note the skirts, as that is the subject of this blog, I want to highlight that all the women are badasses because of their determination, courage, and strength.  The skirt was just part of their Wonder Woman outfits, giving their muscular legs room to move and flex.

On the business and political spectrum, we’ve got role models like Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, Hilary Clinton, and Michelle Obama, all who are able to rock it in skirts one day and own it in pants the next.

With all of these prevailing women as role-models, I have finally come to understand the power of a skirt.  With that understanding comes the knowledge that the power isn’t actually in the skirt, but in the woman who wears it.

Whether women choose to wear pants, shorts, capris, dresses, or skirts, we get to choose to unleash the feminine strength and beauty that lies within.  The clothes don’t claim are equality but can be accessories to finding that power until we can call upon it for ourselves.  Then still, we get to choose to wear whatever the f*** we want.

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No matter who you are or what you wear, remember to honor the Wonder Woman inside of you.  (And if you are man reading this, huge kudos to you.  Remember to honor the Wonder Women in your life and honor the feminine side of you as well.)

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