Dear Body

Dear Body ‘o Mine:

Just a moment of giving thanks to you for housing my soul this go ‘round.

I haven’t always been kind to you. Let’s face it: I have been an abusive partner much of the time.

Somehow I allowed you to become my battlefield, my own social media platform decades before such a thing existed. I expressed my anger and sadness through you by starving or overfeeding you, turning you into a subliminal billboard for my feelings.

I took out my feelings towards myself on you, my friend. Worked out for hours each day, ignored your protests, your needs, your pain.

All you have ever offered me was an exquisitely designed home. A mode of transportation. A portal for expression. A set of systems that keep this spirit of mine, this mind, this heart – alive and upright and capable of using my breath and energy to love, learn, give, share and create.

I have been making a living amends. Since I knew better, I have done better.

Doing better every day.

I just wanted you to know, I love and appreciate you. For everything you are and do. All you have been and will be.

I promise to have more pleasure, more fun, with the time we have left together. I have lots to do yet! I need you by my side.

I will baby you, please you, nourish you, rest you. Move you in ways that feel healthy to keep your systems strong and vibrant.

You are my earth, and I will take good care to cherish you, as you cherish me.

Thank you for surviving my ignorance. Thank you for forgiving my aggressions.

I am listening, now. And sensing.

I get it now. We are in this together

Love,

Me

Image: Nicholas Lamontanaro
Earth Goddess plant sculpture in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens

#bodylove #earth #selfcare #thegetmyworkouttherechallenge #daysixteen

Athlete, Interrupted

Growing up, I was that kid who hated gym.

I’d try to hide when it was side-picking time. I’d try to avoid someone passing the ball during basketball. I’d get in the far outfield in softball. Volleyball? It was simply terrifying. There was nowhere to hide.

I could barely run a lap. I couldn’t do one pull up or push up.

I had zero confidence in my self. I was awkward physically, and had no sense of athleticism.

I decided early on that I did not have the right body for sports like running. I was too shapely and too heavy.

I tried. Boy did I try. Despite my social shyness, my physical awkwardness, my lack of self-assurance, I scraped together what pluck I could and tried to be on teams anyway.

They were a series of humbling failures.

As a very young girl, I had loved to move. I took ballet, tap and jazz from ages 3 -6, and I loved it. I danced all around my room at home, choreographing dances to well-worn albums of my parents’.

But after a move and a series of significant events in my sixth year, I became disconnected to my body. I began to live in my head, in a fantasy world created to blot out a reality that I was not equipped to handle.

And I turned to food as my, well, my everything. It numbed me out, it made me feel good, it comforted me, filled me, calmed me, excited me, made me feel safe, made me feel a part of something. It was my weapon, my barrier, my mode of expression. It was a mood stabilizer and alterer. My best friend, my lover, my family. My church.

So no wonder I became uncomfortable in my own skin and body and had trouble being in the world within it.

Mix in the social world of sports, and it was a recipe for disaster.

Later, after I lost weight rapidly on an extreme diet one summer when I was 12, I started exercising compulsively. I didn’t realize it at the time. I justified it. It was healthy, after all, to work out, right?

I lost and maintained a new, better looking weight, but I was just as disconnected from my body. As a matter of fact, though I knew I looked better to the world at this lower weight (suddenly I got positive attention – people wanted to know me,) I did not love myself any more than before. I actually became even more critical of my body. You could even say I hated it on some level.

It was never good enough. I wanted my body to look like the models in the glossy magazines I grew up reading. To be like the women in the movies and on TV. Like the girls at school that were popular and voted Most Beautiful. I compared the way I looked to world I was surrounded by in the media, and I always fell way short.

I concluded that in order to be lovable, I needed to look like them. Since I didn’t, I was doomed to a lonely, loveless, “loser” life. In my emotionally immature logic, I decided I had two choices: kill myself or reinvent myself.

So I turned to exercise as I had to food. It was a great way to numb out. A great thing to become obsessively-compulsive about. It’s much easier to disguise a disordered relationship with your body by working out too much. Most people think you are “just fine.” Our culture supports the idea of killing it at the gym: “No pain, no gain.” “Transform your body, transform your life.”

At my worst, I was working out 3 hours daily. My body ached, but I seldom noticed. My periods stopped and I felt exhausted all the time. My hair and skin looked awful.

There came a time when I realized that I wasn’t comfortable being around other people unless I had worked out for three hours. I started to understand that something was still way out of whack between me and my body.

Eventually, my world came to a crashing halt. My body simply could not withstand the way I was treating it.

I now understand how amazing the human body is. That it innately seeks healing and balance and has an intelligence far superior than that of my mind. My body called a halt to the imbalanced, disordered behavior, and demanded that I examine and re-approach my relationship to it.

Fast forward many years of therapy and recovery. I eventually have come to a place of understanding and connection again with my own body. A place of loving it as it is, even. (That journey is many blogs’ worth. Today I wanted to share about some of the fruits of that journey so far.)

After much healing, I started to work out again, but with the sole intention of doing it for my health, and for the pure pleasure of moving my body. I learned to listen to my body, giving it rest and recovery when needed. I found that early girl’s love of moving and I gave her plenty of space to play.

And at a certain point, after all those years of telling myself that it just wasn’t in the cards for me, I started to run.

In 2012, just after I had set a New Years’ intention of finding my inner athlete, I heard of an app that helped you go from “couch potato” to 5k runner. I was very inspired hearing about how well it had worked for a friend of mine. In June of that year, I started using it, and within a month, I was running 5k distances with ease.

And I found that I loved running! I started running 5 days a week, and it quickly became a major area of focus in my life. I ran a 5k race towards the end of 2012 on a lark, and discovered how much I loved running with a herd of other runners.

From that 5k, I ran a 10 miler, followed by a half marathon in Jan. 2013. I ran more half marathons in 2013, loving the training process. Training and racing became an important part of my life. I trained no matter what, and really began to feel like I had finally found my inner athlete.

And then, in 2014,  I ran my first marathon: the NYC Marathon. Crossing that finish line was a personal triumph for me for so many reasons. Not only was it an amazing accomplishment to have trained for such an iconic race and to finish it.

But to have brought myself through full circle from a child at home in her body, loving using it, to being completely shut down to my own physical life, to brutalizing it with disregard in order to become someone more lovable, to acceptance for and love of, to testing, training and ultimately celebrating the abilities of my own body.

I wept, as so many do, as I crossed that finish line. For the girl I had been before being interrupted. For the girl who got so lost and misdirected. I cried out of grief for all that they had lost. And I wept with joy for all I had come through, and for where I had brought myself to.

Today, I still love running. But I have continued to listen to my body, and today, she wants some different kinds of movement. I still run, but am not training and racing. I love those years where it held such prominence in my life. It was a five year span of joy, and I  learned so many things about how strong I am, and what amazing discipline I am capable of. But I’m seeking other experiences now.

I’ve been taking tap, which has been amazing to rediscover. (My inner 4 year-old is very happy!) I’d like to start taking ballroom dancing too. I am listening to see what is next. I trust my body will lead me where I most need to go. I know I will be moving, somehow.

My inner athlete is ever alive. Now that I found her, I will never let her go.

#itsnevertoolate #runforlife #running #runner #innerathlete

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: triumph

 

 

Altered

The course of my life was irreversibly altered in miraculous ways on a Wednesday night in January 2011.

The dictionary defines the word “alter” as the following: change or cause to change in character or composition, typically in a comparatively small but significant way.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you may have noticed that I am very interested in (aka obsessed with) the seemingly small moments that occur in life that often end up holding huge significance. Meanings that are unknowable at the time later reveal themselves. The course of history is changed in those small moments, the sometimes seemingly random decisions we make.

This is the story of one of those moments for me.

I had been having a tough time in the latter third of 2010. The whirlwind of my wedding and its aftermath had finally settled down, and the events of the years leading up to the wedding finally really hit me. I’d lost my mother, my brother and my father in succession, and I just sort of imploded.

That December, somehow, an email made its way through my inbox. (To this day, I am not sure how). Perhaps the angels sent it to me. It was about a movement class taught by someone named Erin Stutland. I had been unable to get myself to the gym for a year or so, and felt as awful physically as I did emotionally. Something in the description of the class spoke to me. It wasn’t just your typical workout class. There were affirmations involved. What?!

Something made me sign up. And on that Wednesday night of January six years ago, I went. Little did I know that meeting Erin would be the gift that just keeps on giving. Erin believes that movement in your body creates movement in your life and that all good things flow out of a deep self-love. I have seen and experienced firsthand the power of her philosophy in action.

Not only did Erin’s class start me on a new course in terms of movement for my body, but it helped me begin to make shifts in my relationship to how I thought about so many things.

And if that weren’t enough, I was welcomed into a community of women and men there, amazing people, many of whom I am still in contact with today. The work we did with Erin created powerful change for so many of us.

I have watched as people in that community made their dreams become reality. Major life changes such as weight loss (one woman lost 100+ pounds), career path changes (one woman fulfilled a dream she uncovered while in the class of becoming a minister), recording artist dreams realized, dream roles acted on stage and film, cross-country moves to dream jobs and cities, dream soul mates, marriages and babies born, and more.

One of my goals in the class was to find my inner athlete. Two NYC marathons and countless half marathons later, I can say I found her. It has been a deeply gratifying journey that continues.

My other goals had to do with my career as an actress, and finding more belief in my talents, in what I had to say through my art. I can actually say that the creation of this blog had its seeds in her class. Much of the positive movements I have made in the last 6 years grew forth from the mindset and the tools I found there, and were supported and nourished by the community there. That support and that community continues to this day.

I am so grateful for having met this beautiful, extraordinary and dynamic teacher, and for all of the gifts she has given to me.

I want to introduce you to her, too, because she is on the rise, and someone you should know. I am so proud of her and excited for her! (And for the many, many more people who will soon be benefitting from her expertise.)

You can find out more about Erin at her website here.

Erin is now a co-host on an exciting new show called Altar’d (perfect name!) that is set to debut this week!

Altar’d follows 6 couples who are looking to not only transform their bodies, but more importantly adopt healthy lifestyles and habits before they come together for the most important day of their lives, their wedding.

The first episode will be airing THIS TUESDAY, JAN 17th at 8pm on Z Living. You can read more about this show here. Take a look at the trailer below:

Here’s how you can tune in! To make sure Z Living is available through your cable provider, click here.

I cannot wait to see how this remarkable woman helps to shape the worlds of so many more as she gains exposure and continues to co-create the platforms to share her gifts.

I celebrate the growth and movement I have made in my life with Erin’s help since wandering into her class that fateful evening six years ago. I took a chance and I am so glad I did.

#erinstutland #altar’d #powefulchange #takeachance #loveisthekey