“Why don’t you get up and make the coffee, while I stay in my sleeping bag and plan our ascent route?” I half-heartedly ask my climbing partner Hank.
He just looks at me with that unassuming, “give-me-a-break Val Jon” look of his. It’s three o’clock in the morning, cold, dark, and damp, and neither of us wants to leave the comfort of our tent. But we’re committed to this climb, so we don our parkas and gloves and confront the bitter cold.
In silence, Hank and I gather up our gear and join the rest of our climb team assembled …
“Bent but never broken; down but never out.” ~Annetta Ribken
I lived for a long time thinking I was broken beyond repair.
Let me rephrase: I thought I was unloved, unworthy, scarred, and broken. What a package, right?
It started young, never feeling like I was good enough for anything I did. Being the youngest of the typical modern recomposed family in the eighties, I never knew on which foot to dance and always thought I needed to bend left and right to be seen and loved.
I carried this baggage under my badge of anxiety, feeling like …
“Be kind to past versions of yourself that didn’t know the things you know now.” ~Unknown
When I taught yoga classes in jails in Colorado and New Jersey, I would end class with the Metta Meditation:
May we all feel forgiveness.
May we all feel happiness.
May we all feel loved.
May all our sufferings be healed.
May we feel at peace.
The women, all clothed in light gray sweatpants, would be in a relaxed yoga posture, usually lying on their yoga mat with their legs up the wall. The fluorescent lights would be full blast, as they always are …
“With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I am not a good friend to myself. This realization shook me as I was riding the bus home one day from the local university where I taught.
This realization had been building for some time, but it struck me powerfully that day. I was teaching a summer class on Asian philosophy, and we were reading the Sayings of Buddha. We had been discussing a passage about a monk watching his feelings.
The passage …
“We need to grieve the ones we’ve lost—not to sustain our connection to suffering, but to sustain our connection to love.” ~Jennifer Williamson
Ken was only forty-seven years old when he met his untimely death.
It was surreal, my brother-in-law was gone from our physical world.
As a family, we felt the motions moving through the initial telephone call summoning us to the hospital to the time we surrounded him as he took his last breath. It was if we were all caught between two worlds, one of cruel reality and one of complete disbelief. You read about it …
“Avoiding certain people to protect your emotional health is not weakness. It is wisdom.” ~Unknown
The word “boundary” often conjures up negative thoughts. After all, it’s usually an indication of something being restricted.
However, deciding to set boundaries is one of the most empowering things you can do for your mental well-being.
Growing up I always put the needs of others before my own, and not much has changed in my adult life.
While I enjoy the idea of being a mediator in some ways, or the person that other people come to in times of need, it gets exhausting …
“It’s okay if you fall apart sometimes. Tacos fall apart, and we still love them.” ~Unknown
Do you often find yourself saying, “I just have to get through this week…” and then that turns into every week? I know I do.
Between work responsibilities, chores, and spending time with family and friends the calendar can start to fill up quickly. Unfortunately, there was a time in my life where I let those activities push self-care off my to-do list, leaving me constantly feeling exhausted and burned out.
Before this experience, I always thought burnout was predominantly mental, not necessarily physical. …
“Remember, being happy doesn’t mean you have it all. It simply means you’re thankful for all you have.” ~Unknown
I remember sitting on the New York City subway, tears streaming down my face, armed with valium and lithium along with other antidepressants that my psych had just prescribed.
I was desperate, in that cave I had come to know as depression. Dark, hopeless, fearful depression. The cold metal seat of the subway made me feel raw and exposed. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t stop crying. I was panicked that I would be like this forever.
That was an example of …
“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and herself only.” ~Maya Angelou
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. I’ve grappled with the unshakable feeling that I am not enough no matter what I do.
As a child, I was labeled by my family as being “too much.” Too bossy, too selfish, too energetic, too emotional. So I did what many little girls do when faced by those messages: …
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~Jon Kabat Zinn
In December of 2020, we noticed Mom’s speech seemed difficult. Like she had stuffed cotton balls in her mouth, and someone was restraining her jaw from moving. We asked her about it, she said it was nothing.
We hadn’t seen each other since we got together over the holidays. On New Year’s Day 2020, we clinked glasses filled with sparkling wine and shared bold predictions about how this was going to be our best year yet (spoiler alert, it wasn’t).
With every passing week and conversation, …
“It’s very easy to judge. It’s much more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods.” ~Doe Zantamata
In the past, judgments kept me safe. They reassured me that I had worth. That I was right. That I was good. I believed I knew the “right” way to live.
I felt I could clearly see the truth of matters. I didn’t understand why others weren’t always able to grasp the truth that I saw. However, the real truth was that my inner world was full of turmoil.
Since adolescence, …
“Ease is the sign of grace in everything.” ~Marty Rubin
Work harder. Never give up. Believe in yourself. Get out of bed earlier. Shout self-affirmations in the mirror. Adapt the habits of “highly successful” people…
How many times have we heard those things? In award speeches, articles, self-help books… All those who have made it seem to imply this: If you just work hard enough, long enough and believe in yourself, you will be successful.
But, like…will you though?
I can’t disagree entirely. It’s not that these things don’t contribute to success. They can. But they get way more …
“Don’t believe everything you think.” ~Unknown
I am a self-confessed overthinker. I could spend hours thinking and going down the rabbit hole in my mind trying to find answers to all sorts of situations.
About ten years ago, I struggled with burnout. I was a nurse for about twenty-two years. All I knew was nursing, and I was defined by it. As they say, “A nurse is always a nurse.”
This makes leaving nursing something hard to do, even when it’s unhealthy.
I’ve always worked in high-stress areas like intensive care and trauma emergency rooms, but burnout made it …
“Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.” ~Robert Tew
Everyone has fears. It is not an emotion that is only for a chosen few. One’s fear may seem irrational to the outside world, but I guarantee to that person it is debilitating. So much so, that it shapes their perspective and how they see the world. My fear is of success.
I know what you’re thinking. “That doesn’t make sense at all. Who doesn’t want to be successful?” Well, let me explain what I mean.
You see, I am an …
“The master leads by weakening their ambition and toughening their resolve.” ~Tao Te Ching
How much of productivity advice is ableist? Sure, there are lots of good ideas and concepts in there, but most of it is healthy-body-focused.
“Be sure to exercise in the morning.”
“Get up early before anyone else.”
“Keep a consistent morning routine of meditation, journaling.”
“Set aside fixed times in the day to do deep work.”
“Get dressed and do your hair even if you work from home.”
“Set goals and stick to them.”
“Work harder than anyone else around you.”
I have built …
“If I had the chance I’d ask the world to dance, but I’d be dancing with myself.” ~Billy idol
Spending long periods of time alone—as I’ve done while traveling solo over the past year—is an eye-opening experience.
Without the distractions of my normal routine and relationships, I’ve been able to take a good look around inside my very own head. And the more I do this, the more I realize that what I experience as my world is just a reflection of my own psyche. In reality, I’m dancing with myself all the time.
This crucial awareness is usually hidden …
“Overthinking ruins you. It ruins the situation. And it twists things around. It makes you worry. Plus, it just makes everything worse than it actually is.” ~Karen Salmansohn
I grew up with parents who believed a kid shouldn’t have friends and should be indoors always. Because of that, I never had real friends in my childhood, except those I met in school and church.
Since my early teenage years, loneliness has been my forte, and I have learned to pay too much attention to details. When people talk, I look at them, how they react, their facial expressions, etc. I …
I’m sorry we ever met. Remind me where I made your acquaintance? Oh, yes—on my February trip to Death Valley, where I assumed long days of hiking had caused a rock bruise. Instead of healing, you got worse and jumped to the other foot, too.
Thanks for the reminder. It helps. Because I was there in the Valley to grieve my dead sweetheart, Tony, with rituals and tears and a personal funeral. I hate being forced to walk this earth without him. So I see you now for what you really are—grief and longing and fury that my …