I pull energy from my surroundings. This was something that both exhilarated and exhausted me when I lived in NYC. There, I was constantly bombarded with competing energies and couldn’t help but absorb the good and bad. It happens here in Atlanta, but to a lesser degree. I’m grateful that I get to work from home because it allows me to focus my energy where I need it and not feel drained. On the flip side, I find myself feeling empty if I’m alone for too long. When this happens, I go to a coffee shop — being around people working, talking, dreaming, reading is the perfect remedy.
I’ve been on a Cheryl Strayed kick recently (reading Tiny Beautiful Things and several of her older essays) and am completely smitten with how she uses “motherf*cker.” It’s one of those words you almost have a visceral reaction to — the strong meaning and the harsh rhythm in the pronunciation makes your head pull back like you’ve been slapped. That’s her intention I think — to smack out your fear, insecurities, excuses. Doing something “like a motherf*cker” is about going after what you want, being the person you desire to be, living the life that aligns with your soul. Go fists-and-heart into what’s meant for you.
I meditate with crystals most mornings. Sometimes I hold them in my hand as I breathe, other times they sit in front of me. I don’t do this because I believe crystals have magical properties or divine powers to heal. They’re just minerals from the earth.
It’s the symbolism we ascribe to them that gives them power. By letting a crystal — or rock, or anything — represent something meaningful, our mind focuses on that intention. When we focus on things like positive energy, strength, alignment, intuition, love, and healing, they become true. Where thoughts go, energy flows. It’s not crystals that are powerful — it’s our thoughts.
You hold loss in your bones. Not at first — at first the pain is in your stomach, lungs, chest, and every nerve in your body. But, as punch-you-in-the-face obnoxious as the expression is, time heals. And the pain releases you from its iron clenches. Like a scraggly old dog, it curls up and settles in your bones. Mostly it sleeps. But there’s a few sure-fire ways to agitate it awake. These things are what we call triggers — a word that is overused and sometimes mocked, but damn friend, if you have a pain-dog in your bones, you know what it feels like when it wakes up.
For everyone who has a pain-dog, I am so sorry for you. I feel profoundly for you. Yesterday was the kind of day where dogs were either awakened or created. The anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. The destruction of Notre Dame, a stunning symbol and precious part of history. The shocking death of a colleague who was beloved by many. The tragedies everywhere that happen as frequently as we breathe. It fucking sucks. There’s not much to say that doesn’t sound trite; just keep feeding everything good inside you — the compassion, authenticity, creativity, awe, generosity, dreams, uninhibited love. The dog will eventually go back to sleep.
Gotta work to let the light in sometimes. Especially into the place you’ve already decided are dark. Especially into the stories you’ve been telling yourself for so long that you’re no longer sure what really, actually happened — and you’re no longer sure if what really, actually happened really, actually matters.
Let me tell you something — what matters is what you say matters. You can shift what’s inside you however you want to. And if you think a perception, a thought, a memory, a conviction is too dark, then by all means, send some of that divine light there. It’s OKAY to do that. You get to decide.
I want a wild and beautiful life. I want sunsets and mountains and oceans and endless belly laughs. I want to understand myself, to live in alignment with my truth, and to trust my flow. I want late nights with countless stars and soul-connecting conversations. I want deep sleeps and lazy mornings, and to always feel strong and good in my skin. I want pride and sweat, exertion and joy. I want to create. I want to love deeply and be loved deeply. I want to do what I'm meant to do. I want to live with my heart open, my soul forward, and expansively. Every damn day
I swam in the warm pool without direction, flipping underwater every so often. I thought about this trip, about why I had flown halfway around the world to be here. Healing, discovering, connecting, manifesting — vague hopes that I wanted to more clearly define. I knew Bali could help me with that, and not just because “Eat Pray Love” said so. I travel because it frees me and helps me reshape my story, and better understand how I want to live. My husband came back with the coffee. Glaze-eyed from jetlag, he held up two plastic bags heavy with hot black liquid. “This is coffee to-go,” he said.
In a coffee shop, I Googled a term that popped into my head:
“...where we are between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.”
Liminal space. Having a name for the beautiful, uncertain in-between feels good.
As the yoga class progressed, my anxiety flared up, as it tends to do when I let my guard down. My thoughts turned to worries about what I said to a colleague the other day and if they took it the way I meant it, if I was doing what I was meant to be doing with my life, if I’d left a candle burning in my living room. Stop looking for pain. Stop creating negativity. Life is good. Be grateful. Inhale so, exhale hum. I am that. Stripped away of judgment, just me. The me I was with earlier, laying on my mat. It sort of worked.
There’s so much power in these two little words. Not I want to be, I will be, I should be, I wish I was. I am. Meaning you own your shit and speak your desires into reality. I am happy. I am thriving personally, professionally, and spiritually. I am at peace. I am a good friend/husband/wife/daughter/son. I am. This morning, my meditation was inhaling “I am,” and exhaling what I want to continue, increase, or manifest. Sinking into the space between the thoughts. Feeling. Being. Breathing. I am connected. I am grateful. I am happy. I am doing what I’m meant to be doing.
Sometimes I find myself looking into the past, wishing I’d been more honest, brave, loving, and connected. (It’s funny how the small bumps in a long, lovely road are the ones that our minds always drive back to.) Then I look at my life now, and am so damn grateful for where and who I am. And I know that every bump in the road, even the ones that brought me to my knees, were somehow part of my flow. So when I catch myself looking backwards down my road, examining the bumps, or ahead, fearing the bumps I know will be there, I remind myself to trust.
The waves were higher in Condado than I’d expected. They didn’t appear powerful from the shore, but once I was waist-deep in the light blue water it became a constant game of jumping over or diving under. I held my nose but water still crept in, filling my mouth with the taste of brine and salt. The taste didn’t bother me — I love oysters and seaweed and other ocean foods — but the residual puffiness did. Once, I reacted too slowly and was knocked off my feet, tumbled against the rough bottom, sunglasses ripped away. Yet I stayed in the water, because it demanded my full presence.
I’m detoxing this week. My intention in this is to listen to the whispers. To learn to separate fear from intuition. To lean into what drives me. To wake up feeling strong and go to sleep feeling peaceful. I tend to get swept up in the moment — when everything is fun and flowing, I never want it to end. But that awesome flow isn’t in the indulgence — it’s in the energy, the company, and being able to be with myself. It’s in savoring each bite and sip and being fully present. It’s in being brave, knowing myself, leading with love, and trusting the process. It’s about listening.
You are not your past. You are not the things you said and didn't say, did and didn’t do, could have been and should have been. You are not your family, friends, circumstances, heartbreaks and triumphs, hidden shames and boasted joys.
You are this breath, this moment, this sensation. You are the drumming heartbeat, the air on your skin, the energy that flows into you and through you and out of you. You are love. You are whatever you let yourself be.
And when you find yourself getting snared in the gnarly darkness, heavy regrets, and scratching what-ifs, maybe just sit awhile and breathe in more of yourself.
I could spend the rest of my life trying to find the words to convey how I feel when I'm standing knee-deep in the ocean, diving under the waves, or floating on my back, held up by the salt water. Like everything makes sense and bliss and peace surround me. Like I'm feminine and powerful and could be swept away in a heartbeat. Like I'm part of something vast and beautiful that I don't really understand but don’t actually need to understand. Just honor and trust. I think this feeling is what it means to be a woman. I think this is what it means to be human.
And yes, you will pay too much for your handmade gnocchi that tastes like chewy butter in your mouth or your sourdough bread spread thick with avocado and sprinkled with pink himalayan sea salt. And yes, the husky banker at the bar will lean too close to you, unaware of elbows and shoulders until he decides he wants something. The West Village doesn’t care. It wants you to learn to savor, and learn to wait, and learn to push if needed. It wants you to say yes, thank you, more, to whatever the hell life is. And if you’re lucky, you’ll leave with a spark of a story.
This is a reminder to honor your suffering. Sit with it. Study it. Address it however feels right. Call a friend and be vulnerable. Write, scream, run, nap. Say “hell yes” to what serves you and “hell no” to what doesn’t. Seek professional help if needed, and don’t worry that what you say sounds stupid or selfish or disturbing. You are NOT the only one with demons. Everyone experiences suffering and there is absolutely no shame in it. By honoring our suffering, by understanding that we all share suffering, and by trusting that we deserve a beautiful life, we can heal ourselves and we can heal the world.
Beautiful places can bring up the worst pain. I learned this as we drove through Iceland, surrounded by some of the most stunning works of art earth is capable of producing. Lush green hills that stretched for miles turned into black jagged cliffs piercing the sky turned into endless rolling blue waves. The beauty seemed to make the choking darkness inside me all the more pronounced. As I looked out the car’s window, I took a deep breath in, holding the clean air until I no longer could. Then I let it go, imagining my pain coming out with the air and disappearing into the land and sea.
I started coughing after dinner. A dry, hacking cough that seemed completely pointless yet couldn’t be stopped. The little numbers on my inhaler read 000. Nothing left. “There’s a urgent care center nearby,” our host said. I was scared of this — I didn’t know anything about the Indonesian healthcare system. I was more scared of not breathing, so we walked down the dusty sidestreet. The building was filled with children holding gaze to cut arms and men slouched with glazed eyes. The host accompanied me to the counter. Five minutes later, I walked out holding an inhaler and ginger herbs. The trip cost me less than $6.
The trailer parks and signs for boiled peanuts and tufts of cotton visible every now and then brought up a strange nostalgia. Not for the intolerance or racism of course, but for the energy that the South had, of magic and faith, community and sadness. But then, a hand-painted sign on the side of the road read, “America was great before 2008!” and on the back “Hillary Clinton is lying if her lips are moving.” I groaned. We passed by another lot of dilapidated trailers with broken cars out front, surrounded by dirt fields and new growth forests. A block of shops, most of the windows boarded up.