The Luckiest Girl Alive or Dead

I’ve thought a lot lately about how I’m the most fortunate person on earth. I even feel more fortunate than Angelina Jolie because I can leave my house and go out to dinner without getting harassed. I don’t constantly get asked for money or interviews or to save all the children of the world.

As my friend Aaron and I talked about one day after I had been sea kayaking with the whales in Washington, he said, “Do you realize we are among the most fortunate beings to have ever existed?” “Even more so than most kings and queens throughout history because we have the ability to fly over oceans, to see all the landscapes of the world and meet people they never could’ve met.” We have access to more knowledge than ever, the most sophisticated health care that’s ever existed and comforts and freedoms that most societies couldn’t even dream of.

I am a white, attractive enough, educated, middle class female living in the US in 2015. I have my health. I have a beautiful, safe place to live. I have every material comfort I could need. Other than a new dress or pair of shoes every now and then, there is nothing material that I need or even want that I don’t have.

In this country, I have the freedom to educate myself, to date who I want to date, to do or be anything I can dream of and to express myself as I choose. I often felt discriminated against and judged when I was fat, and at times, I’ve felt objectified as a woman. But other than that, I’ve never known what it’s like to experience racism or even gender discrimination. I’m the least likely person to ever be targeted by police, and I think in the work that I’m in, being a woman actually works in my favor.

Most of my beautiful family is still on this earth, and they love and support me in ways that don’t even seem real. When I hear crazy family stories, it’s something that I can’t wrap my head around. My family has no agenda for my life, other than wanting me to be happy. I don’t get lectured or pressured about religion or having babies or getting married or making more money. I can be totally myself with my family, tell them anything without any fear of being judged or criticized. We have fun together, we support each other in our pain and together we try to heal from our past and understand more about each other and this crazy life. My family and our relationship is probably the most amazing gift I could ever be given.

I have meaningful work that pays me well. I’m self-employed, so I have a lot of control over my own schedule. I have enough structure to keep me busy, but I also have plenty of free time to do other things that I love. I don’t get an insane number of e-mails or phone calls everyday. I’m able to leverage my time and assets, so that I can create income for myself even when I’m not actually working. I’m not super wealthy, but I have plenty of money to keep me out of debt, to invest in retirement and to do all the things that I want to do. For the first time in my life, I can say I have more than enough financially.

When I started this blog over three years ago, my mission was to create a peaceful life for myself. And for the most part, it has actually worked. My life is pretty balanced, and I don’t live in a constant state of anxiety anymore. A few years ago, I realized that feeling anxious was my default state, and even though I still get anxious, it’s not my baseline anymore. Granted all or any of this could be taken away from me overnight, but for now my life is pretty simple and peaceful.

As I write this, I’m thinking, “Why would you tell people this when there are so many people struggling and hurting because they don’t have the things that you have?”

But I wanted to write this for two reasons. One is because I want people to know that it’s possible. I want people to know that if you are drowning in debt, battling with addiction, constantly anxious or in chronic pain, that there is hope.

Fifteeen years ago, my family as I knew it was falling apart. I was caught in the throes of an eating disorder. I was severely depressed and afraid nearly all the time. I wanted desperately to have never been born and was grasping for any ounce of hope that would keep me going one tiny step at a time. During that dark time, I couldn’t have believed that anything else was possible. And I’m SO SO grateful that there were a few people who were willing to believe it for me until I could believe it myself. And now I’ve found a way to have a mostly healthy relationship with food and my body, and I’m really happy that I was born. What I believed to be impossible was possible.

I think that we forget to be grateful. We get so caught up in our misery that we forget how amazingly fortunate we are just to have running water and heat in the winter. Here in America, we forget about all the things that are going right. Like the Dalai Lama said when he was here in Birmingham, “Think about all the people that didn’t get murdered today.”

And yet there’s still so much to do. The amount of suffering and pain and violence that happens everyday is unfathomable. Paralyzed by possibility and the amount of need in this world, an infinite number of options is a blessing and a curse. I know I can do anything that’s humanly possible, so then how in the holy hell do I choose.

A second reason I wanted to write this is because I finally get that having most of your ducks in a row never takes the hard out of life.

Because of some personal struggles that I don’t want to write about publicly right now, I’ve felt kind of raw and lost lately because I’ve lost some of my tethers that kept me grounded and gave me a sense of purpose. So I’m in this scary place that I’ve been many times before of trying to find a new normal as I live with the pain of feeling like there’s a giant hole in my being. It’s hard to sleep, and I feel miserable a lot of the time. Many days I struggle with insecurities and self-doubt. Even though I have enough, I can still feel like I’m painfully not enough. I judge myself for all the things that I’m not and all the talents that I don’t have. And relationships are still hard and terribly confusing. I have hope that it won’t always be that way for me, but I’m not sure.

And I feel guilty for being so fortunate. I feel like I should dedicate my life to helping those who don’t have the fortune that I do but I’m afraid to suffer by totally immersing myself in their pain.

I have worked hard to change many of my beliefs that limited me and to make my life what I want it to be, but nothing makes things easy. It’s a terrible realization, but there is some strange freedom in truly knowing that. I no longer live with the illusion that once I achieve x, y, or z, then my life will magically be better. Nothing can change the fact that life is short and scary and mysterious for everybody, and we lose the things we love the most no matter how fortunate we are.

So I just do what I know to do, I keep going. I feel grateful for all that does work. I see the beautiful green trees through my window, the shapes of the leaves, the chipmunk playing in my backyard. I go to dance practice or the gym and get lost in the moment for just a moment. I try to have fun, forget about myself and hold on to perspective by listening to people who are struggling so much more than me. I remember to be kind, to help in the small ways I can, to treat people well. I write about me as truthfully as I can. It may not be enough but I guess it’s a start.


“Give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light.” – Mumford and Sons

“If you’re going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.” – Pema Chodron

“We don’t know what’s possible. Our ideas of what’s possible are based on the past.”- Geneen Roth

These are the some of the quotes that have been circulating through my head these days.

This year has been one of change and loss and gut wrenching decisions. And I’m trying to let myself be annihilated so I can better see the indestructible in me.

In every moment, things are dying as others are born. Death gives way to life in the most unexpected and mysterious ways. In the wise words of Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

In September of last year, my granddad died of leukemia. I was with him for a good part of his last month on earth, and it was one of the more meaningful experiences of my life. I would swing back and forth between denial that we were actually losing him and sobbing at the thought of life without someone I’d never known life without.

As he got sicker, I watched an innocence and purity emerge from his often hardened exterior. I felt so close to him in those last weeks of his life and could see so much of who I wanted to be in him. Even after retiring a wealthy man, he lived a very simple life. He was one of the most frugal, yet generous people I’ve ever known. He was genuine, loyal and consistent and inspired me to think creatively about how to save and reuse things in fun and meaningful ways. I’ve wanted to write a post that honors him somehow, but every time I’ve tried, it’s felt so inadequate. Maybe I’m able to best honor him by trying to embody those same values in my own life.

As we sat with him by his hospice bed in the living room of my grandparents’ home, I started to feel less afraid of death. Movement was painful, but overall, it seemed to be a peaceful transition. We were all together as we watched him slowly let go of us and life, and being with him through that process, also helped me be able to let go of him. I felt sad for all the people who didn’t have the chance to say goodbye in the way that we did.

As he was dying, people would ask my grandmother if she was going to be ok, which was my greatest concern. And she would say, “Well, I figure I have two choices: to be ok or not. So I’ve decided I’m going to be ok. “

And she has been. I don’t know how someone manages to be ok after losing someone who has been by their side for over 60 years, but through this, I’ve realized that it’s possible. I know that she misses him terribly, but she still finds meaning in her life. She seems to feel peaceful and has found her own strength in learning to do things for herself that he had always taken care of during their life together. Seeing her live through this has helped me believe that it’s possible for me, too.

Around the same time, my dog, Stevie, of 11 years was also getting older and sicker. So not long after losing my grandfather, it was time to go through the same experience with my dog. It was haunting how similar of an experience it was- I watched Stevie slowly decline over the last few months of his life, and I went through all the same stages of denial and grief. And again seeing the life slowly leave him allowed me to see that it was time to let him go. But he had been the only constant being in my daily life for the past eleven years, and on the day he died, I felt like I wanted to die with him. I felt like part of me was missing.

Through both of these experiences, something changed within me. I felt stronger and more capable of facing things I had been terrified to face. As my friend Chalo wrote when Stevie died: “There will never be another Stevie, nor will there ever be another Lauren that loved Stevie. Everything is temporary and for that reason precious.” I’m trying to not let my fear of losing something trap me because ultimately I will lose everything.

But while I’m here, I want to love so hard that it destroys me, knowing that sometimes love means letting go. I want to know the limits of what I’m capable of. I want to love my life, the people in it, this world and myself with all of me. I want to be raw and vulnerable, to take risks and throw myself out there knowing that I don’t always get to control the outcome.

There have been many days in the last 9 months where I was hurting so much that I wasn’t sure I could take it. The temptation to self-destruct, to escape somehow or to find something to numb the pain has been so great. But most days I don’t let myself go there because I know it will only make things worse.

I know that I can’t be fully alive without feeling pain. I want so bad to believe that at some point I’ll have everything together enough to where I won’t ever have to hurt again. But I guess that’s a luxury we don’t get in this complicated, messy life.

So I’m trying to let myself be broken and to feel my way through the dark, knowing that an immeasurable joy and freedom can be found in not running from the brokenness. And in the midst of it all, I feel so grateful for the support and unconditional love that I feel from the people closest to me. I couldn’t do this without them.

The Story of My Life

This week we’re finishing up a major renovation of a 1940’s home in Avondale. Before I started this project, I was feeling desperate to work on a major construction project that involved creativity and benefitted the community in some way. I had taken about a year and half to rest, work less and think about what I really wanted to spend my time doing.

I felt stuck and frustrated at how difficult it had been to get a Passive House project off the ground.

So when Donna Florio approached me to work on this house, I was thrilled. I also imagined that after having spent more time relaxing and meditating, it would be easier to stay balanced while working on the project. I was wrong!!

I was able to still take some time for myself, but this project has been all consuming. All my obsessive-compulsive tendencies were hanging out right below the surface just waiting for an opportunity to shine!

My obsessive need to finish projects and to have things run smoothly is in part what makes me a good project manager, but it’s also what keeps me up at night and keeps me working ‘til 7 and on weekends without any energy or attention left for anything else.

The good thing is that I can do that for a few months at a time and take a break. I love building so, so much, but it’s a world of intense, perpetual stress. I think that unless I am able to magically uncover some coping strategies that I don’t know I have, I won’t be able to do large projects back -to -back indefinitely. But as long as I can work myself to death for a few months and then take a month or two to have fun and be a little more chill, my brain should have a chance to remember how to exist without the adrenaline of constant chaos.

I have also realized (which is probably pretty obvious to most people) that I can’t have 3 careers at the same time. I love interpreting, translating, postural therapy and building, but I can only focus on two at a time and truly do a good job. And I still have so much to learn about all of my professions, so I also need time to keep educating myself.

At the moment, as we finish this project, I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. I’m thankful for all of the amazing workers that have been a part of this. I can’t do my job without good, reliable subcontractors, and the relationship I develop with them and the quality of work they do, just blows me away. When I’m on the jobsite and we’re all working together, it almost feels like vacation because we laugh and joke and learn from each other. It’s so incredibly rewarding to see how much a whole crew of people can get done in one day!

I’m also incredibly grateful for my work at Children’s. It has provided me with stability and flexibility at the same time. I never have to worry about going hungry, but they are so adaptable to my schedule that I’m able to pursue other things that I love. That’s a rare gift in the business world. My world had become a little too one dimensional when I was at the hospital everyday, but now that I’m there part-time, I’m able to appreciate what a wonderful opportunity it is.

I’m also so, so grateful for the internal peace that I’ve found. Even on the most stressful of days when I’m in tears because of all that’s gone wrong, there’s a general undercurrent of peace in my life. Although my spirit is still restless, I love what I’m doing. The one question that remains in my mind is whether or not I’m playing it too safe. My life is so comfortable that I wonder if I should take a giant leap of faith and travel the world or head to a third world country to do more hands on work, even with all my fears about giving up the illusion of security and a retirement plan. But in the meantime, for the first time in my life, I know that I’m doing what I love and what I’m good at.

I think my work life will continue to fluctuate with some combination of oral interpreting, written translating, building, and postural therapy for the moment. And in my free time I want to dance a WHOLE, WHOLE LOT! I want to spend time exploring the outdoors. I want to spend time with my family and close friends. I want to fall asleep at night reading books that inspire me and to write every now and then when I get a chance.

It brings tears to my eyes when I think about how I’ve changed. I still see the stuck places within me, and I want to be willing to open myself more and more to being vulnerable and available for other people. But I no longer feel aggression towards myself. I don’t hate myself or my body anymore. For the most part, I trust myself and know how to listen to what I need. I don’t have a long list of shoulds or ideas about what I ought to be doing to make other people happy. And the luxury of love, freedom, safety, a comfortable bed, and the trees and the birds outside my window is so much more than enough. It’s a dream come true.

I keep hearing the Dalai Lama’s voice saying, “we all the same, you, me, we all same.” I’ve learned to love and accept my own humanity and that allows me to see the humanity within others.

I hadn’t written in a long time, and I think there are many reasons for that. But one of them is that I often wonder if I have anything worth saying. I wonder if I can say anything important that hasn’t already been said a million times. And for every idea or argument that I can come up with, I also imagine the validity of looking at things from a different vantage point than my own. So it’s hard to say anything with certainty when I know there are a hundred other angles that also express the truth.

I also have just been caught up with the idea of living, just living life without feeling like I have to explain it or make sense of it all.

So as I sat down today to finish this blog post, I realized that this blog isn’t about being right or wrong or having flawless theories on life, love, government or race, but it’s just about documenting my experience- the experience of one tiny human being on this planet.

When my grandparents moved out of the house they had lived in for 50 years, I found my great, great grandmothers diary. She had traveled to China and done some amazing things, but that wasn’t what impressed me about her. I just found myself wanting to know her. And the things she wrote about gave me insight into what her story was, who she was as a person and what mattered to her. That’s what I cared about, and I was so grateful that she had put some of that on paper so that I could know her a little and at the same time, understand a little more about where I’d come from. In every person’s unique story, there are experiences that are universal and validating to other people that read them, and there are things that many other people won’t relate to. But I still believe every story is worth telling, which is what I had to remind myself of today.

Hello, Darkness…

“Hello, Darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again…”

I’m headed home from a retreat where I’ve spent the last 6 days, mostly in silence, with 200 people I didn’t know. The retreat was with one of my favorite authors, Geneen Roth. Geneen writes about our relationship to what it’s like to have enough, be it enough food, money or love, and how our beliefs about being enough affect every detail of our lives and relationships. This was my 5th time to go to one of her retreats, and it’s always pretty much like being in hell. It reminds me of when I was ten years old and used to sit for hours in the blue recliner in my living room by myself and eat a whole box of wheat thins while I watched Saved By the Bell reruns. I was terrified of people and barely spoke to anyone, including my family. It was the most miserable time in my life, and something about being at these retreats with a whole bunch of strangers that I can’t talk to makes me feel like I’m right back in that blue recliner.

So you might be wondering why I even go, which I sometimes wonder myself. Why would I spend money and vacation time to go to a place where I feel miserable?

But it is always amazing how it changes me. After 6 days of no cell phone and “exploring my inner self”, I feel like a different person. I realize how much of my precious time and energy is spent scrolling through facebook or e-mail. How at the first sign of discomfort or fear or impatience, I reach for my phone or obsess about money or my weight or my relationship- anything that can distract me from the messiness of being human, from remembering that life, in all its beauty, is also full of pain and loss.

So something about getting in touch with that misery allows me to come home feeling a little more open, a little more willing to experience what I work so hard to avoid. Today I feel more heartbroken than ever, kind of raw and skinless. It’s a scary and welcome feeling. The retreats remind me that all the distractions in my life only keep me from feeling alive because there’s no avoiding the unavoidable, and any pain I feel is still there whether I try and distract myself from it or not.

So as I readjust to life back at home, I continue to work on my commitment to honor myself and the world around me. To let myself be wildly human. To let myself love what I love and to trust my deepest desires. Believing more than ever that freedom is possible.

I continue with the forever process of learning to live authentically, to have the courage to act with integrity and to make the gut-wrenchingly hard choices of acting in my own best interests, in accordance with my deepest beliefs- something that I fall short of everyday and yet am more in touch with than ever.

I want to remember that misery isn’t what my life is made of anymore, while at the same time being willing to explore the dark, scary, miserable parts of myself. Because ignoring them doesn’t make them go away—and owning them allows my life to be richer, more complete and more fulfilling.

Brené Brown says it beautifully in this passage from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection:

If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage
with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about things that get in the way-especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.

In Jungian circles, shame is often referred to as the swampland of the soul. I’m not suggesting that we wade out into the swamp and set up camp. I’ve done that, and I can tell you that the swampland of the soul is an important place to visit, but you would not want to live there.

What I’m proposing is that we learn how to wade through it. We need to see that standing on the shore and catastrophisizing about what could happen if we talked honestly about our fears is actually more painful than grabbing the hand of a trusted companion and crossing the swamp. And, most important, we need to learn why constantly trying to maintain our footing on the shifting shore as we gaze across to the other side of the swamp- where our worthiness waits for us- is much harder work than trudging across.

So here’s to walking across the swamp together and maybe having a mud fight or two along the way ☺







I’m in a little corner of paradise in the wildest part of Costa Rica, and I just keep having to pinch myself to believe that I am where I am. I just got here, and I’m already sad because I don’t know when I’ll get to come back. I’m on the Osa Peninsula on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica at a little ecolodge called Iguana Lodge. October is the rainiest month in Costa Rica, so most places have ridiculously low prices this time of year. I think it might be my favorite time of year here because things are much quieter, and it only rains a few hours each day in the afternoons, which can make for a really peaceful afternoon! Another lady from Colorado and I are the only two guests at the moment, so we kind of have the place to ourselves! I’m torn between just wanting to play on the beach all day and wanting to see all that this beautiful place has to offer. It’s whale season here, so there are plenty of tours you can take to go whale watching or kayaking or waterfall rappelling or ziplining or surfing!

So far the whole trip to Costa Rica has been so lovely and peaceful. I wasn’t sure what to expect because it’s been nearly four years since I was here last and this country and I have so much history!

I first came here when I was 19 to study Spanish. I studied at an institute in the mountains of Santa Ana called Conversa and lived with a host family in the town of Santa Ana. I was only here for three weeks but fell so much in love with the country. I hadn’t been back in the states for a day when I called my host mom crying because I missed everything so much. I love the outdoors and outdoor adventures so incredibly much that it really was the perfect place for me to keep working on my Spanish. I’ve always struggled when I have to sit still or be indoors for long periods of time, so to be in outdoor classes that consisted of hiking or ping pong or swimming was my perfect learning environment. After returning to the states, I talked with my advisor in college and worked it out so I could come back to spend the summer here that same year and get school credit for it. That summer I started dating a “tico” that I had stayed in touch with from my first trip to Costa Rica. Between my love for him and the beaches and mountains and waterfalls, I never wanted to leave. I tried unsuccessfully to find a job down here and return the next semester, but when that didn’t work out, our relationship fizzled.

In the meantime, I had found a small community of ticos in Birmingham that could ease the pain of being so far away from my little paradise. I still came back whenever I could to visit and explore new parts of the country. Then a couple of years and a few Costa Rican boyfriends later, after I returned from a five month trek around Europe, I started dating my future husband. We met at a party that my Costa Rican friends hosted and would then see each other and dance together every Friday night at Assagio for Latin dancing. I tried my best not to date him, having sworn off all latin men, but after about six months of him insisting, I gave in!
We came to Costa Rica a few times while we were dating, and I had so much fun with his gigantic family of 11 brothers and sisters and countless cousins and nieces and nephews.
It was such a welcome contrast to my white middle class America that seemed to want to lead me down such a conventional path.

After about two years of a tumultuous courtship, partly because we thought we could love each other forever and partly because of logistical reasons such as immigration, etc, we decided to get married. Our marriage was one of extremes, things seemed to swing back and forth from extremely happy and good to horrific and unbearable. One month he would seem to love me more than he’d ever loved anyone and the next month he’d seem extremely distant, ready to pack his bags and leave. We both struggled to adapt to each others’ expectations and cultures, and after 4 years of marriage, because of so many different reasons, we separated. It was extremely difficult, but after crying nearly everyday for several months, I was able to see things with more clarity and trust that it was the best thing for both of us.

After we split up, I wasn’t sure if I would ever come back to Costa Rica, but I’ve discovered since then that my love for this country was not at all dependent on my ex-husband. He now lives part of the year next door to my goddaughter with his wife and 5 month old baby. He let me borrow his car and his cell phone for the time that I’m here, and something about being here and holding his baby and laughing with his new wife has brought me a strange sort of peace and happiness. Even though I’ve felt peaceful about our divorce for a long time, it’a strange thing to feel so happy and sad at the same time. I’m still sad for all that was lost, but I know that it’s better now that we aren’t together. And I’m so incredibly grateful that we can all spend time together without feeling any anger or resentment towards each other. It means the world to me to be able to stay next door to each other and have that be ok.

It’s also strange because in some ways it feels like the country hasn’t changed at all and in other ways things are different. The machismo is still very present here. Women are expected to stay home, clean, take care of the kids and cook three meals a day- and to ask the man in their lives permission for everything. I’ve been asked repeatedly, “your boyfriend let you come here alone?!” I still haven’t found a very good answer to that question, and every time I’m asked that, I feel so grateful to come from a place where I have the freedom to carve out my own path. But at the same time, at least in the rural areas, there is still so much poverty here that the machismo almost makes sense. There’s not enough demand for both spouses to work so the only way they can afford to get by is if the wife stays home, raising the children, cleaning and cooking rice and beans over and over again. Most people seem to have enough money to buy food and to pay their monthly water and electric bill, but not much else. Marita, my goddaughter’s mom, is an awesome seamstress who makes most of their clothes because she can’t afford to buy any. All the toys the kids have are decades old and look like antiques- in many ways it’s kind of refreshing. And it’s definitely been a good reminder of how little we actually need. Most of the trash at their house is compost so they just throw food scraps into the jungle behind their house. Of actual trash, they may have a small plastic Wal-Mart bag full each month. For many years they had a big hole that they had dug themselves to bury the trash. Marita was excited because I made some cookies and brought them in a tupperware container- she was thrilled to have a container to put her husband’s lunch in everyday! Many people here still use banana leaves to wrap their lunches in!

Marita’s family used to raise pigs, and they would use the methane from the pigs’ waste to cook and heat their water. But Marita says that since the free trade agreement with the US was passed, the meat from the factory farms in the US can be imported so cheaply, that it no longer makes economic sense for them to raise their own pigs. A similar thing seems to be happening with coffee. My ex’s brother has a coffee plantation, and he says that the price off coffee dropped over 60% this year because it can be imported so cheaply from other places. With the current price of coffee, they can barely afford to pay the workers to harvest it and then have it transported to the co-op.

I don’t know if the free trade agreement has benefited the country in some ways or not. Marita says that people have more access to technology than ever before, which could be a good and bad thing! Nearly everyone has a cell phone with prepaid plans- most people text here because it costs less than a penny to send a text message.

I’ve also noticed a shift in the mentality of Costa Ricans with regard to conservation efforts in this beautiful country. When I first came to Costa Rica, I was struck with how reckless people could be with such a gorgeous place. Piles of trash would line the streets and river banks. People didn’t think twice about leveling primary rainforests to create pasture land. Then they would douse the land with chemicals that went straight to the rivers to keep weeds from growing. But those practices seem to be changing, due largely to the influence of foreigners.

In some ways, all the foreign influence and immigration from the US and Europe has made the country a lot more expensive for the locals. But at the same time, the tourism industry has created so many jobs and has helped people understand that they need to protect their country if they want it to continue being a prime eco-tourism destination. I think when people come from such poverty, it’s easy for them to only focus on what money can buy. They take this beautiful paradise for granted because it’s all they’ve ever known. So it’s really nice to see that now many schools are teaching kids about recycling and conservation.

As I navigated around potholes on the five hour trek to reach this lodge, I was struck by how alive I felt. And after I reached the lodge, I sat down to listen to the crashing of the ocean waves and three macaws flew over my head. I felt a familiar pit in my stomach that usually happens when I’m afraid. And I thought to myself that maybe I was afraid of being in a place so unfamiliar and so wild, but then I realized that I was afraid of just the opposite. I’m afraid of leaving. This is the place where my soul can rest, and I can feel alive at the same time. And I’m scared of going back to a routine and a life that flattens me, that I’ve tried so hard to mold into a life that I love but that still doesn’t let me feel totally alive. And I feel so sad and trapped when I think about leaving this little paradise. At home I get consumed by responsibilities, to-do lists and trying to “be somebody” or achieve something.

But for now, I’m going to try and be here while I’m here, knowing that I’ll leave here a slightly different person than when I came. And trusting in the fact that life unfolds at its own pace and that the answers will come to me as I’m ready for them.

Here are a few photos from this lovely place, the school where I studied, my goddaughter and the peninsula (I haven’t figured out how to caption photos from my phone yet!)










From One Steel City to Another

It’s a rainy night in Costa Rica. I’m in a town called Santa Ana visiting the family that I lived with when I studied here nearly 14 years ago. After a couple of weeks away from the busyness of work and the responsibilities of home, I’m feeling pretty peaceful.

I just finished reading Orange is the New Black, and after reading about the author’s experience of a year in federal prison, I feel humbled to be a part of this mess we call life and all of its uniqueness. In her book, Piper Kerman describes humanity and the importance of connection so well. Her experience shows how resilient we are as humans and that we can survive most anything as long as we’re able to love and connect with other human beings.

The centering thought from one of the guided meditations I did last week was about “cherishing every connection.” And that’s mostly what the last couple of weeks have been about for me- connecting with other people, myself and the world around me.

On a road trip to Pittsburgh for the annual Passive House conference last week, after camping near Cumberland Falls, I got to spend some time in Kentucky and share ideas with Ginger Watkins, a new friend, architect and a great advocate for Passive House. I’m excited about the possibility of us working together- it’s so helpful to have the support of someone who’s experienced in working with Passive House. After our meeting, I headed to Westerville, OH to visit some cousins and my great uncle, all of whom I hadn’t seen in 10 years or so. It was really fun getting to know my cousins and their spouses a little more, catching up, sharing stories and looking at old pictures. My great uncle lost his wife (my grandmother’s sister) on the day of their 59th wedding anniversary last year, so I wanted to know that he was doing ok. It was really special to spend some time with him and to see all the projects he and my grandad had worked on together in his home. He was an architect who designed some beautiful buildings around Westerville, and he and my grandad were experts in working with what they had. He turned a bottom drawer into a step stool in the kitchen to reach things on the top shelf, made a countertop from a bowling alley floor, used motor oil to flatten out his cupped cedar shake siding and made a ventilation system with a box fan and a hole in a door with an insulated panel to cover it in the winter. It was really fun and meaningful to connect with him and my cousins and to see what they have all been up to for the last decade! They all sent me on my way with a delicious brunch!

With many hours on the road, as I drove to and from Pittsburgh, I had time to catch up with some old friends by phone who have moved out of town. I also had plenty of time to listen to some inspiring talks. One of the talks was from a guy named Neale Donald Walsh who wrote Conversations with God. In this talk he summarized what I’ve come to believe about life. I told my friend Nuo the other day that if someone held a gun to my head and asked me for the meaning of life, I’d have to say “to experience it.” Neale went on to talk about how each of us is a unique expression of the divine. We are a piece of divinity in physical form so that divinity can have the unique experience of what it means to be each one of us. And at the risk of sounding like a faux-spiritualist (as my friend Aaron calls it!) or of over-romanticizing ordinary life, I really believe that’s true. He says that our only job in life is to be who we are and to experience the depth of all that entails. It seems that so much of our pain and suffering comes from denying our experience and trying to be something other than who we are.

Then I thought about the movie the City of Angels, where Nicholas Cage decides to fall from angel hood and experience the pain of becoming human again just so he can touch Meg Ryan. And I remembered what it was like in high school when I had developed an eating disorder as a coping mechanism, as a way to avoid feeling pain that I feared intolerable. I became so numb that I couldn’t feel joy or pain. I remember looking at sunsets with glazed over eyes and half-heartedly saying, “oh that’s pretty.” But they were only words because no part of my being was able to experience the beauty of a sunset. So I began the arduos journey of recovery because I decided that feeling lifeless forever was worse than feeling pain. And although often I don’t feel or act very divine- I can easily fall into the awkwardness of trying to be someone I’m not or trying to fabricate things to validate myself or existence- but after just a few minutes of meditating, I’m reminded of the priceless stillness, peace and beauty that I’m made of- that we’re all made of. And now I can look at the sunsets and the sky on a daily basis and be truly moved by their beauty. Every time I do, I’m so thankful that I’m able to experience them.

Once I got to Pittsburgh, I stayed with my friend Claire, who moved there with her husband a few months ago. We explored Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, did some rainy day yoga and had some fun dinners with her husband Miles!

At the conference itself, I felt inspired and overwhelmed at the same time. I heard some amazing talks that reminded me why this matters to me and to the world. Every time I go to a Passive House training or a conference, I understand things a little more completely and leave with a broader perspective of how everything works together. It’s so great to be among a community of people who are passionate about what they’re doing, learning from their mistakes and sharing their experiences.

Building a Passive house still feels like a scary mysterious thing, but I think that’s only because I haven’t actually built one yet. Yesterday I visited the institute in the mountains of Costa Rica where I came to study Spanish 14 years ago, and as I looked at the beautiful mountains, I was reminded of how similar the learning curve is with Passive House. I would spend hours and hours in the classroom learning and studying, reading books and living with families who only spoke Spanish, and even after a year or so of near immersion, it sometimes felt impossible. I felt like it would always be hard. But at some point, a few years down the road, it started to feel pretty natural. I still am continually learning new things about the language, but the language is almost second nature to me now. So remembering that experience was very comforting because Passive House is just learning another construction language, and hopefully a few years from now, it won’t seem so hard.

After the conference, I started back home, and as I crossed the border into Ohio, I called my dad to tell him about the conference, thinking he would probably be out hiking somewhere near his Seattle home. He answered and when I asked what he was up to, he said, “Oh, just hanging out in Ohio at a physical therapy meeting.” I couldn’t believe we were in the same state! So as an added bonus to a great week, I got to walk along the Ohio river and have lunch with my dad- such a welcome surprise!

I made it home and flew to Costa Rica 2 days later (which was due mostly to poor planning- it’s been a welcome rest, but I didn’t quite realize I’d have to take 3 1/2 weeks off work when I planned these trips!) Tomorrow I’ll head down to the south of the country to visit my goddaughter and my ex-husband’s family. Then even further south a few days later to the Osa Peninsula, the wildest part of Costa Rica. I’ve never been, but it sounds absolutely beautiful. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to write while I’m there!

Below are some images of my sweet family, Cumberland Falls (the Niagara of the south), my dad near the Ohio River, my friend Claire, Fallingwater, the view from the Conversa institute where I studied in Costa Rica!









Lessons Re-Learned

I’m grateful to be feeling good again. Life has been pretty great over the last few weeks, and I’m ready to dive into some new projects. I’m playing with the idea of balance as things start to get a little busier.

Here’s a list of a few things I’ve learned (or re-learned) over the last few months:

1. The need for the tension of the opposites is an important thing to accept.

I had plenty of free time when I was sick. I got lots of much-needed rest, but the more time I spent at home, the more miserable I felt.

I learned that although I need love and support, I don’t really want other people to take care of me. I don’t want all the free time in the world- and this was a huge thing for me to experience. It’s allowing me to accept the tension of the opposites that Jung talks about. Because even though I don’t like it when I have to wake up to be somewhere at 7- I also don’t like not having a reason to wake up.

I would often think about how fun it would be to be suddenly wealthy, so I could be totally free to pursue my creative interests. And even though I’m sure I wouldn’t turn down a million dollars, turning it down could be the better choice! Because I want to create my own success – there’s something so satisfying about that. And I want to have plenty without having too much. It reminds me of a quote I heard somewhere that said, “Give your kids enough money to do something, but not so much that they can do nothing.” Creating new businesses involves hard work and uncomfortable risk. I was hoping for a natural, effortless evolution as I transitioned into a relaxed, prosperous new business. But I’m realizing that I’m just going to have to dive into some things that are hard and that terrify me! I’ve just gotta close my eyes and jump! There are going to be some things that I don’t like or even hate, but I can accept that and work hard while I still take time to rest and care for myself.

2. Our beliefs about life and ourselves are inseparable from our physical health and well being.

As I was sorting through my health woes, I ran across a book by Louise Hay called, You Can Heal Your Life. The book talks about how our lives are a manifestation of everything we believe- be it our health, our relationships, our work. Louise was diagnosed with vaginal cancer, and she decided she was going to heal her life with nutrition and healing beliefs and exercises. And it worked for her!

I’ve always believed that our belief system can keep us limited, but I didn’t quite know to what extent. I listened to a talk by Deepak Chopra last night that said our bodies renew themselves by 98% every year, which means there’s only two percent of my physical body that’s left from this time last year! In my mind, that creates an amazing possibility for healing.

So I started to experiment. I could feel myself starting down this lengthy road of spending thousands more dollars, chasing a medical diagnosis, feeling awful and sorry for myself. If I looked hard enough, I’m sure I could have found something that was wrong.

But I also believed that I could choose to get better, and I refused to accept that I was going to feel weak and sick for the rest of my life.

So I decided to go kayaking one Saturday, regardless of how I felt. I felt sick during the first half of the trip, but then I felt pretty great. And it’s been mostly better since that day. When I’m tired, I think, “Oh, I’m tired today.” Rather than, “oh, god, I’m exhausted, what horrible illness is this a symptom of?” When I start to hurt, I stop and take a few breaths. Letting go and believing that my body can heal has been a really powerful experience for me.

I don’t say that to discount the pain that so many people are experiencing. I think that pain is very real, and I don’t pretend to know to what extent our beliefs contribute to all pain, tragedy, and illness, but I thought it was worth trying in my own life.

3. Self-loathing often gets disguised as self care.

Another thing I’ve learned is that I was still trying way too hard. I still had an agenda of wanting to “fix me”.

When I first started feeling bad, I didn’t want to see a doctor. I thought, “fuck, I’m already exercising, eating healthy- I don’t have time for anything else related to my health. “

Pete Egoscue, the founder of the postural therapy method I practice says, “Pain is your body’s voice. Listen to your body.” My body was trying to communicate with me, and honestly, all I wanted it to do was shut up.

At times there’s an underlying aggression that permeates the things I do in the name of “self-care”. Self-loathing can easily get disguised as “self-care”. We say we’re going on a diet to be healthier, or we’re going to exercise for our health. When what we really feel is that we are disgusting, over indulgent slobs who need to punish ourselves into shape. But we rebel against that because something at the core of our beings refuses to believe that we’re defective or horrible.

Something within us says I won’t give up until you see the value in me- the value in me just as I am. And I will continue to rebel until you love me, listen to me and pay attention to what I’m saying.

We talk ourselves out of our feelings and desires, we wish we could cut off half of the fat on our bellies or erase the wrinkles from our forehead because some ancient voice is yelling at us saying that life would be easier if we didn’t have feelings, desires or imperfections. If we could just fit perfectly into the mold that our parents or society have set out for us, then our existence would be validated. Then we wouldn’t blame ourselves anymore for the problems that were never ours to begin with.

4. Complete self-reliance doesn’t work (nor does it exist)- I believe that healing is impossible without the support of other people.

I was trying to be way too self-reliant. One of the main reasons that I got certified in Postural Therapy was so that I could treat myself. I thought getting treated was too expensive, so if I was certified, then I would never need a therapist again! But I’ve learned that there is no substitute for having another human being to help us heal and to support us in our suffering. We weren’t meant to live in isolation, and as much as I would like (at times) to avoid the messiness of needing other humans and relationships, it doesn’t work for long.

5. If I try to use my head to make sense of everything, I go crazy.

This health drama has reminded me of a religious quest that I went on in college. After some events in my family caused me to question nearly all my beliefs, I set out determined to find the ultimate truth and to live my life according to that truth. So I obsessively read books, took religion courses, had discussions with friends, and the more I sought out concrete answers, the dizzier I became. When I finally gave up and quit trying to figure it all out, I found the freedom that comes with accepting the paradox and mystery of it all.

And I think I’m learning that lesson again now- if we can humbly exist and rest in the complexity of life that can never be fully understood with our intellect, then we find peace and freedom. As soon as I quit trying so hard and relax into my experience, then I usually feel pretty good. If I can do things that are fun, that’s the best medicine I’ve found. I don’t remember the last time I was hurting while having an awesome time!

So I think it’s been a combination of all the things I just wrote about that have helped me feel better: the shift in my belief system and attitude, the nutritional changes and supplements I’m taking, the love and support of the wonderful people in my life, treatment from some really great doctors and therapists, meditation and relaxation techniques that help me slow my mind down and sleep, remembering to have fun, and listening to my body with kindness instead of yelling at it to shut up. I hope to have internalized these lessons a little more over the last few months, and hopefully they will continue to shape my life and my actions.

I’ve started working with people in postural therapy again, and so far the results have been pretty great. I have a cute little therapy space in my mom’s building in Cahaba Heights. I’m still happy to work with anyone who is interested. Right now, I’m seeing people on a pay what you can basis. I need to cover some basic expenses, but I also want it to be accessible for anyone who is interested. So feel free to shoot me a message if you’re interested- I’d love to work with you! Here’s a link to the post explaining more about the Egoscue Method and postural therapy, if you’d like to read more about it! And I’m planning to start teaching a posture class one evening a week sometime in the next few months.

I’m also dreaming about some Passive House projects. I don’t think it’s the right time to start building my Avondale house. But I have been thinking of building an affordable Passive House on a different property to sell. I’m hoping to find some existing Passive House plans that I like and modify them a little, which would make the process much shorter. I’ve also started looking at some historic properties in Norwood and Roebuck Springs, to see if I find something there that I could renovate.

So we’ll see where all this takes me, but thank you again to everyone who let me know they were thinking of me. And to everyone who shared their own stories of similar struggles. It really meant a lot to me.


I got the results from my MRI last week, and the doc said my brain looked beautiful. So it doesn’t look like I have MS, which was really great news.

I was euphoric for a day until I realized I still felt bad. But feeling awful when you think it’s something that will pass is really different from feeling horrible because your brain is eating away at itself, knowing it will only get worse. Suddenly things felt much more manageable.

I really, really appreciate everyone’s sweet comments and concern. Overall, I’m doing better, but I still don’t know what’s going on. From all the testing I’ve had so far, it doesn’t look like anything serious. My symptoms seem to change everyday- all things that are difficult to describe and quantify- the numbness comes and goes. Sometimes I feel dizzy, nauseated and lightheaded, like I might pass out, and most of the time there’s just an undercurrent of yuck mixed with exhaustion. (I imagine this is how new mothers must feel!) I’m able to function and act pretty normal, but I don’t feel like myself.

I saw an integrative medicine doctor last week whose doing some more testing, and I’ve also been working with a Chiropractor and a wonderful physical therapist who specializes in a type of therapy called Feldenkrais.

I’m trying to live life as normal and avoid the wallowing. I get out and do stuff even if I don’t feel like it- hoping that if I keep doing normal, I’ll keep feeling better.

My diet right now is pretty amazing. I know more about nutrition than I ever have! Every morning I make a smoothie with 5-6 different colored organic fruits, kale or spinach, flax seed, macha green tea and Vitamin B complex. For lunch and dinner, I usually have a salad with a ton of roasted vegetables, pumpkin seeds and some grass fed beef, salmon or tuna. I take Vitamin D3, probiotics and DHA Omega 3 supplements, which is the deep marine algae that the fish eat, making them high in Omega 3’s. I try to go out in the sun for a few minutes every day, and I’ve cut way back on the amount of alcohol I drink. I’m not restricting myself if I want other foods or a drink, but for the most part, I love eating this way.

I’ve always had the tendency to figure things out on my own- to muscle my way through. But I’m so thankful that I haven’t had to do this alone. My family, friends, and Chris have been there without me asking and have supported me in so many ways during this process. From messages to cards to phone calls and flowers, I’ve felt like they’ve carried me. When I was worried about how this could affect me financially, my mom told me to not even let that thought enter my mind. She said, “there are two generations of people willing to help you if you need it. Focus all of your energy on getting better.” She gave me her oh-so expensive Vitamix so I can make superfood smoothies, she’s researched supplements and natural treatments, come to appointments with me, paid for chiropractor appointments.

My dad has called friends and co-workers to ask for their advice, paid for PT appointments. Chris has been there watching me cry and laugh- happy one minute, falling apart the next. My sister calls every day to check on me.

So thank you again for all your support and concern. It means the world to me, and I hope to be back to normal very soon!

I just re-read this excerpt of what I wrote the night before I got my results:

I’m getting the results from my MRI tomorrow – it’s been a long month of waiting. I’ve managed not to go crazy- although for moments I’ve felt incredibly weak and vulnerable- like a child who was scared to be left alone. I’ve found myself dreading the nights- knowing they would be long and sleepless.

But there’s been a lot of that inevitable clichéd good that comes from anything hard.

It’s been a humbling reminder of how important it is to meet myself and other people exactly where they are in their suffering. A reminder of how we never have all the answers. As soon as we think we do, life will quickly remind us that we don’t. And that I need to come back- to come back to now because that’s all we’ve got. I’d kind of been doing it half way. Scrolling facebook while I’m doing my relaxation exercises.

Suffering creates empathy and that empathy along with all that I’m learning about my own body will help me become a better postural therapist as I start working with people.

I’ve had a million questions along the way. Could it be the toxins in the construction materials from my building jobs, or all the crap I ate for a lot of years, an eating disorder in high school- a minor bout with pain killers in college- a tumultuous marriage and divorce, gaining and losing 60 pounds. Talking on my cell phone too much- breathing formaldehyde from the houses I’ve lived in. The GMO ingredients in my food- the fluoride in my water. All the alcohol I’ve drank over the last 5 years.

We live in a pretty toxic world. We pump chemicals into the ground where our food comes from and into the water that we drink. Our buildings are filled with toxins, while we rarely step outside to breathe fresh air.

MS is linked to low Vitamin D levels- if this is MS, could it have been as simple as spending 10 more minutes a day outdoors this past winter?

Who knows- I’ll never know. As much as I would like to.
I would gladly do whatever would make me better, and though I can try and make educated guesses, I’ll never know if I’m spending a lot of energy in vain while I’m missing something that’s important.

It’s frustrating and fascinating at the same time. The mystery of life is maddeningly beautiful.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. If the doctor tells me it’s not MS, I’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief and thank God for another chance to take care of myself. If it is, I’ll have good days and bad days. Days where it feels unfair. Days where it just feels like too much of an uphill battle. It will somewhat reinforce the belief I’ve struggled to escape from- which is one wrong move- or a few years of wrong moves can create irreversible consequences.

And other days, I’ll feel grateful for hope- grateful for all the love, support, and community that I’ve found through this. I know it will show me things I never knew about myself.

I know I’ve still got a lot of growing to do, like a friend of mine once said, “here’s another fucking growth opportunity!”

I think I’ve been hoping for a life that doesn’t feel quite so hard or quite so uphill. And if I have MS, it will be harder to imagine that life.

But I know that I will continue to work on creating a peaceful, meaningful existence for myself. And I will gently do the best that I can, which is really all we can ever do. (We just have to hope that our best doesn’t involve anything horribly hurtful or illegal ☺)

Health Woes

It’s been a hellish couple of weeks. I’ve spent half of the last two weeks crying, feeling falling apart horrible, and the other half feeling strong and optimistic, like I can deal with anything I’m handed.

A couple Fridays ago I wasn’t feeling so great. I’d been feeling tired off and on for a while, but this day was different. I was exhausted and nauseated with numbness in my hands, feet and face. I had that run over by a truck feeling like you get when you have the flu. My head was pounding, and I hadn’t slept really well in months.

It kind of felt like a cruel joke the universe was playing on me. For the first time in my life, I was making time for myself, making my own well being a priority. I made sure I had enough time to sleep and exercise everyday- the only problem was I couldn’t sleep, and then I was too tired to exercise. Ha, ha, that’s really funny, Life.

I wonder if it’s some sort of challenge, like my body’s saying, well, let’s see how far you’re willing to take this whole “take care of yourself thing”. Are you willing to go broke? Are you willing to spend all your money on healthcare and healthy food?

So that Friday night, I went to see a doctor at MedHelp. I thought maybe my woes were related to my thyroid since I take medicine for hypothyroidism. He said he would do some blood work to check my vitamin and thyroid levels, since both vitamin deficiencies and low thyroid could cause my symptoms. And then he said, “but if this all comes back normal, I’m concerned you could have MS.”

M, what?!! Of all the things I’ve worried about in my lifetime, MS had never made it onto my list of potential catastrophes I should be prepared for. It had never even crossed my mind.

He said I was in the right age range, and I was female. And that it often starts with fatigue, headaches, body aches, an interruption in sleep patterns, and numbness in your extremities.

Usually my initial response when something bad happens is to keep calm, focus, and be extremely practical. It’s almost like an out of body experience, where I become really objective, observing the situation from a far. The panic doesn’t set in until later, so I immediately started preparing myself for what all this could mean.

My thoughts the week after that appointment went something like this: “Ok, so I have MS- I’m going to be the poster child for how healthy you can be with MS.” “I definitely don’t have MS- I’m sure this is just a virus that will pass.” “I think this is all in my head.” “My symptoms are the exact MS symptoms, I’m sure I have the progressive kind, and I’ll be in a wheelchair by next week.” “MS, I probably don’t have it, but if I do, hey, it’s no big deal.” “MS, it’s a death sentence- I’m losing everything!!!!!” (while sobbing uncontrollably)

A week went by and the doctor called the following Friday to give me the results of my blood work. My thyroid was a little low, and I was deficient in Vitamin D- but neither one of those seemed likely to be causing my symptoms. The doctor again said he was worried and wanted me to see a neurologist. My sweet friend, Ana, works in a neurologist’s office so she gave me some tips on how to best navigate the system, and I made an appointment for the following week.

But a few hours later, I started feeling really dizzy and my limbs felt so heavy that it was hard to walk. I panicked and, hysterical, I called my mom to tell her I was going to the emergency room. I work in the ER all the time, but it was my first time there as a patient. I stumbled in and couldn’t bring myself to tell the ER nurse what was wrong- he saw the tears in my eyes and asked if I needed to be seen. I nodded while I clumsily filled out the paperwork. My sister works at the hospital where I was so she came to see me, and something about seeing a familiar face made me cry even harder. Within an hour, my mom and Chris were there, too. I’ve always known that I have a wonderful family and support system, but this experience has magnified that exponentially. I’m SO incredibly fortunate.

They did a CT scan and more blood work in the ER, which all came back negative. The doc said that I didn’t have a brain tumor, and she was able to rule out several other things, such as an infection, lupus, etc. But she said there was no test that she could do in the Emergency Room to rule out MS.

She looked at me with a sad face and said that my symptoms sounded like MS to her, and she just hoped that the neurologist could come up with another explanation that she wasn’t thinking of. She said, “All I can do is give you a prescription to help you sleep and calm your nerves, so you don’t panic this week while you’re waiting to see the neurologist.” “I know I would be panicking,” she said. That last part wasn’t very helpful.

So I went home more convinced than ever that I have MS.

It was a long week of ups and downs while I waited for my appointment yesterday. When the neurologist saw me, it was comforting that he didn’t automatically think it was MS. He said we needed to cast a wide net to see what we could find. I’m getting an MRI next week, and he said sometimes even migraines can cause these symptoms. But I don’t feel like I have migraines. I feel like I have the flu mixed with insomnia, weakness, numbness and dizziness. I feel weak whenever I stand up, and sometimes it feels hard to catch my breath. Sometimes I can’t hold it together and cry when someone casually asks how I’m doing and other times I feel pretty normal- it comes and goes.

I still have no idea if I actually have MS or something else, but I’m now an expert on everything related to it. I can tell you which supplements you should be on and what things you should avoid. There are two different MS diets, one of which I’m already following! One physician with Progressive MS was able to reverse her symptoms with a certain diet. Here’s a link to the Ted talk she gave regarding the changes she made in her diet to go from being wheel chair bound to riding her bike to work. She’s recently written a book called Minding Your Mitochondria. I’ve cut out gluten and alcohol(mostly) and am eating 9 cups of different organic fruits and vegetables a day and 4 ounces of grass fed beef or salmon. I’ve started taking Vitamin D, Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin B supplements. In less than a week, I’ve already spent $350 on food!

I don’t feel sorry for myself because life is still pretty great. I’m often surprised that even more horrible things haven’t already happened to me, and I’m really glad that I don’t have a brain tumor.

I’m mostly just worried about how it will affect my energy for the things that I have loved in the past. I’m worried about not being able to go on backpacking trips or about having to take medicines that could hurt my body in other ways. And I’m sad for all the ways that I’ve abused my body in the past that could’ve contributed to whatever this is.

Just like always, there are so many unknowns. And even after the MRI, regardless of what they find or don’t, there will be many more unknowns. Everyone with MS has different symptoms with different degrees of severity. And if they don’t find anything, then I still have to try and figure out why I’m having all these problems. Or wonder if it is all in my head ☺

Lofty Ambitions

The peaceful life thing was going ok until last Saturday.

I went on a tour of some beautiful downtown lofts and the obsessive, creative construction bug in me was unleashed. By the end of the tour, I felt totally dissatisfied with my life and went on to spend the entire day obsessing about how I wouldn’t feel complete until I had a building downtown that I could turn into some really cool residential spaces.

My head was spinning with thoughts like: who cares about peaceful! Sitting around stretching, writing, getting enough rest- that‘s so boring! Don’t you want fun and excitement?!? Don’t you want to create these awesome spaces so you can impress everyone with how cool and creative you are? Life is more exciting when you’re exhausted.

I feel so important when I can barely fit everything into a day.

I worked out the strategy in my head about how I could get financing- which family members and friends would be willing to invest in the project.

I was so focused on my plan that I barely heard a word Chris said at dinner.

I came home and started researching properties. I let Chris know that he would be living in one of the units I was building and that it would be our weekend hangout place (whether or not he wanted to live there was totally irrelevant).

I imagined how perfect it would be- during the week, I would have my home in Hoover with the birds and view of the trees. Stevie (my dog) would have his backyard to play in. And on the weekend, we would be the cool urbanites that we are, walking to bars and restaurants, sitting on our balcony and people watching.

I was so convinced that this would truly make me happy, and I wouldn’t rest until it happened.

I fell asleep dreaming about our new downtown life.

The next morning I woke up and grabbed one of the books from my nightstand. I have about 5 books by my bed that I affectionately refer to as my bibles (not to offend anyone)-because they ground me when I get so lost in my own head. I’ve read them all at least five or six times, and every time they remind me of what I’ve forgotten.

The one I grabbed this morning is called Appetites by Geneen Roth and the first paragraph I happened to read said this:

“As long as I keep rejecting what I have now in favor of a fantasy of what I think will make me happy, I will be frustrated and in pain. We can accept the way we are or reject it. Rejection takes many forms: shame, an intense focus on self-improvement; the belief that if we left ourselves alone, we would never work, we would never exercise…
Rejection can feel like determination, willpower, relentlessness to change. Fantasizing about a parallel life is a rejection of ourselves, our present lives. ”

Wow! It hit me like a ton of bricks- that’s exactly what I was doing. I was telling myself that my current life wasn’t good enough. Things aren’t ok- you don’t have enough, and YOU aren’t enough.

We get caught up in the if only syndrome- if only I were thin, if only I had a million dollars, if only my partner were more like this, if only I had a partner, husband, baby, THEN I would be happy. As Geneen writes in another one of her books, “We are waiting for the longing to be stilled. We are waiting to give the burden of ourselves away.”

I’m still scared of this moment. I’m still scared of calm and of being trapped in my own life. I don’t always buy into the idea that I can trust myself. But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to escape from the burden that I see myself as.

After I read a few pages in my book, Chris and I watched CBS Sunday morning (my favorite show). They always have a sort of in memoriam for famous people that have passed away. I was reminded of how quickly life passes us by- our lives will be gone in a flash.

So I asked myself once again, how do you want to spend your life? In 50 years, what do you want to say you have done? And the answer to that question is never that I want to have lived a stressful life with lots of material success.

The answer is always that I want to have found peace and contentment. I want to have really shown up for the people that I love in my life. And I want to have helped other people believe that peace is possible.

As Pema Chodron said, it’s often not about right or wrong, but rather about asking ourselves, “given that death is certain, but the time of death is unknown, what choice do I want to make?”

So that’s not to say that we don’t have dreams or creative projects that we’re excited about. I would love to renovate a building downtown. I’m really excited about all the wonderful things that are happening in our city. And I want to be a part of it. I just want to hold onto myself in the process. Because if I’m doing it to prove something to myself or to the world, then it will never work. If I don’t already believe that I’m good enough, there is no success or achievement that could convince me otherwise. So thank you Geneen and CBS Sunday Morning for reminding me that I want these endeavors to be an expression of myself, rather than an obsession or a rejection of my current wonderful life.