#8 Enoughness Project Series: Because maybe you expected me to post more, too.

Just an informational post to address my not-very-prolific posting about my Enoughness Project experience… And, for those who are unaware, my boilerplate:

This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I am abstaining from frivolous material purchases, accepting all blessings that come my way and focusing on gratitude for all that I have. The idea came to me in a meditation-induced haze and it has nothing to do with politics or morality. I’m just a girl who’s hoping to: separate the association between looking good and being good; get comfy with receiving; become a glowingly grateful human being; get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption; grow my understanding of when/why I buy things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

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Yes, I often take pictures of myself to see if whatever I’ve just put on looks ok for leaving the house. And more so now that I’m not buying new stuff to wear. My poor sister has received many a self portrait paired with the plea, “Be honest. Does this work?”

So you say you haven’t been posting much during this three-month project?

No, I’m not posting as often or as much as I intended. I meant to write a lot more about this. Wait, no. I have been writing. A ton. And I’ve been processing a ton. But I’m just not posting a ton.

Why not?

I’m not ready to post most what I’ve written. A lot of it feels like TMI, as it were.

Ok. What are you reading right now?

A lot of stuff, but I’m checking out Brené Brown’s, Daring Greatly, per the recommendation of two sublime women.

What are you getting from it?

I’m not that far into it, but I’m more aware of vulnerability as a key to living a wholehearted life.

So what’s the deal with you not being vulnerable about your Enoughness Project on your blog?

I didn’t expect this to happen, but not buying stuff is indirectly making me more aware of my shadow side, which is, well, dark. I guess I was previously able to cover it up with shiny new stuff? Uncovering and honoring the shadowy part of me is great and incredibly useful for me in my own life, but maybe not of keen use to all of you.

No, seriously, let’s talk about your dark side.

Thanks, but I don’t much feel like sharing. Uncovering the true source of your own value in the world can be a bitch. So can learning how to be grateful, really grateful, for everything you already have. And don’t even get me started on the bizarrely difficult work of prying my palms open to receive. These three things have sparked some serious inner wildfires, and I’m feeling a little too ravaged to discuss.

Can you offer just a hint of the dark stuff you’ve discovered?

Extreme body consciousness. Suppression. Self-criticism. Envy. Self-doubt. Greed. A touch of trauma. Grief. Anxiety. Lack of compassion. Things I thought I was and have just realized I’m not, and vice versa.

Whoa, girl. You ok?

Never better, actually. I’m delighting in my discoveries, though raw, because it means I’m evolving at the soul level. This isn’t my first rodeo, if a deep dive into my own consciousness counts as a rodeo—and if it does, I’m owed a belt buckle—so I know better than to be alarmed when I get all stirred up inside and some dark gunk gets routed to the surface.

In other words, I’ve come to recognize this kind of intensity and hunker-down-to-process-ness signifies a resplendent spiritual evolution in process. Always. And, on the for real tip, what’s better than knowing there’s a glorious light at the end of the tunnel, and that you’ll get to linger there in some lush garden for a while? (before the next major shift.)

Wow. You must be really fun at parties. 

Yeah. With each cocktail I have, the odds of me cornering you and making you talk about God, Spirit, Enoughness, your dead grandmother, my shadow side and yours goes way up. Fortunately, so do the odds of my buying you a glass of champagne and requesting Snoop from Mr. DJ. So, I like to think it all comes out in the wash.

Will you be writing any more about your Enoughness Project?

No. I’m not sure. Maybe not for a while. But probably. Yeah. We’ll see.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks to anyone who cared enough to read all the way through. My gratitude, and many blessings upon you.

Does this dress work on me, Baby Kip?

Does this dress work on me, Baby Kip?
It’s embarrassing to admit, but when I look in the mirror, my perception is almost always distorted–I don’t ever know what the hell my body actually looks like–and somehow I feel like eying a photo of myself in the mirror removes the film and allows me to see a truer vision of my physical self. That’s what this Enoughness Project is doing for me on the soul level. It’s removing the distorting film from my inner vision and causing me to see myself as I really am, mucky sludge and golden light and all. I just haven’t felt like sharing much about this.

 

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Introducing the Enoughness Project: My study in gratitude, receivership and transcendence

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Kip calls these my cheetah jammies. (I always hang my cotton Target nightgowns on a satin hanger. You don’t?)

“Cool jammies, Mudder,” Kip says, a talking baby koala hanging from my right side like it’s eucalyptus. It makes me laugh every time this three-year-old snuggle monster calls me “Mother,” so he does it often.

“Are you a cheetah?”

“Yes, Kippy, I am a cheetah,” I whisper.

“Mommyyyy?”

“Your mommy is a cheetah. And so are you because you can run sooo fast,” I say.

“I suuuure can! I sure can wun wiwy fast,” he sings, then pauses. “I wuv you, my mudderrrr.”

He leans his head into the curve of my neck and pats my back the same way I do when I want to let him know without words that I love him. It’s the first thing in the morning.

It seems blasphemous in hindsight to put him down in that moment so that I might return to fixating on what to wear for the day, but that’s what I do. The recent indulgence in birthday cake and pizza feels full in my midsection. I think I look a little bit pregnant and the weather has turned warm, requiring me to forego the layers I’d usually employ to hide myself.

If only I had a shirt that looked nice and also hid this stomach thing I’ve got working.

If only I had something other than last summer’s cotton dresses to throw on.

If only I had a different body altogether. Yeah, I wish I just had a different body…

Should this If Only voice go totally unchecked, it might say: “OMG, what is wrong with you? Seriously, what is up with your body? You know that if you want to look fit, you’ve got to get control of yourself, lazy. I’m talking about exercise. And no birthday cake. I don’t care if it is your five-year-old’s birthday. Get it together.”

In this moment, precisely 30 seconds after releasing Kip, the embodiment of joy, from my arms, I feel sad. I think about how much better I’d feel about everything if I had a new shirt. A new shirt would solve all my problems. I wonder if I have time to go buy one. Or a new dress. Something to make me look more fantastic than I feel in this moment.

But I’ve made a deal with myself and with the universe, and a new shirt is not an option. This deal–it popped into my head in a way that felt important while meditating one night– I’m calling it my Enoughness Project: A study in gratitude, receivership and transcendence. You could call it a sort of spiritual detox, a process of recognizing my own innate enoughness.

What the Enoughness Project entails:

-No frivolous shopping trips. I will not purchase any nonessential material items for three months. This particularly means clothes, beauty products and home accessories. I’ve never been a credit-card-debt-racking slave to beauty and fashion, and I don’t *think* my friends would describe me as a shopper, but when I want to make myself feel shiny and new, I often seek out Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, Target or the makeup counter for things that will spruce up my body, my appearance or my nest at a low cost.

-I must accept blessings in whatever form they come. My gut reaction when I’m facing generosity, gifts, work opportunities, epiphanies, beautiful moments, etc., is to think or say “Thank you so much. But I can’t accept that.” In other words, “I don’t deserve that.” With this project, I must remain open to receiving all the wonderful blessings that come my way and leave it at “Thank you so much. I’d love that.” Because I need to buy the line I give everyone else: You are amazing, you are a child of God and you deserve all the blessings in the universe. (Everyone does.)

-Maintain conscious awareness of all the blessings I already enjoy. This means opening my eyes a little wider so I can take in all that I have—and be grateful for it.

The point?

If you’ll pardon some redundancy, there are several points to this project:

-Separate the association between looking good and being good.

-Get comfortable with receiving blessings

-Be grateful for all that I already have

-Get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption, grow my understanding of when/why I buy things and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values.

What was the impetus for the Enoughness Project?

I went to the dentist. That night, as I was meditating, I received a clear call, which may have been inspired by my conversation with the Bosnian dental hygienist who I’ve seen a hundred times but who has never made mere mention of the horrors she experienced during the ethnic cleansing of her people until that day. I listened to her tales of fear, torture, bleakness and not having enough food to feed her tiny children and, with tears in my eyes, I felt sickened by my own to-do list, which included things like “look for a new going-out dress” and “buy a turquoise accent piece for the living room.” The vision of my elegant dental hygienist huddled on the floor with her four-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter, both hungry, in a foxhole of couches and chairs, hoping to sleep all night protected from gunfire in the streets while her husband worked at the prison camp…

Her story brought an undeniable clarity within me: I have everything I need and almost all of what I want. In listening to her experience in her home country and in receiving her call to enjoy everything we have in this country, going out and buying stuff on a whim, though a regular habit, officially became an expired habit for me.

That said, it seems worthwhile to clarify I’m not foregoing shopping out of disgust for American mass consumption, although the trend does trouble me. The connection I felt with my dental hygienist was merely a catalyst for me to examine my own motives for consumption when, in reality, I have everything I need, no one is hungry and we are safe. This is not a political statement but rather a deeply personal exploration.

Send me some good vibes on this journey?

As most of us know, changing habits can be extremely difficult, and this will be no exception. My Enoughness Project is going to be a hard row, and I’ll be blogging about it as things come up. It’s sure to call up a whole slew of deep-down feelings, ideas, beliefs and experiences just waiting to surface; and, as this project is, after all, intended to induce transcendence, this is just as it should be.

With luck, in three months, at the very least, I’ll have the wherewithal to embrace life’s sweetest moments without preoccupying myself with material predicaments like what I’m going to wear. Instead of putting Kip down to stare at my closet, I’ll swing my little koala around in my arms, snuggle him close to my cheetah jammies, bathe him in laughter—and then get dressed.

My mom snaps: How I fall in love with an awesome new kids book and simultaneously ache for a different version of it.

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I wrote this post a few weeks ago and, in some of my customary self-censoring, I haven’t posted it till now. I’ve been withholding a lot of what I’ve been writing lately. Why? Because it scares the hell out of me to publicly admit when I’m not the peaceful, even-tempered, wizened, mom-nastic person I think I should be. Nonetheless, I’m sharing the below in hopes that maybe (just maybe?), like me, there are others out there who haven’t quite yet become the vision they hold for themselves. And, like me, maybe aspects of the current state of affairs is not pretty. Maybe we’re on our way to becoming that shiny vision of our highest selves. Still, even if you’re careering toward higher consciousness, when you hit inner speed bumps at a breakneck pace, it can be extremely painful.

Here’s my story

First, comes the adorable. I got a lovely kids picture book in the mail this week. It’s called My Mom Snaps and it takes the reader through universal childhood moments while Mom stands by snapping photos of her kids in action. Apart from making my boys giggle, through awesome illustrations and delightful verse, I feel like, for my kids, it’s made sense of why a camera is often party to their antics. It’s the perfect book for wee ones of this extraordinarily well documented generation, and we love reading it.

However, at least for tonight, I really wish this book, or any book, depicted the ugly side of this title because maybe such a book would help my sons make sense of the other kind of snapping Mommy does. Because tonight, their mom snapped, and it left us all in pieces.

It’s usually unpredictable and uncontrollable when it happens.

One of my sons enters and exits these fleeting phases I don’t understand, can’t control and don’t manage very well when we’re in one of them. Usually, sensory kid that he is (that so many kids are, diagnosed or otherwise), these phases are sparked by a time of transition, which could be as small as school-to-swimming-to-home, or as big as end-of-the-school-year-start-of-summer, and I never know what exactly is going to set him off.

This week, I’ve been seeing the telltale sign that he’s on the verge of one of these phases: He amps the fuck out when I tell him no.

No you can’t have ice cream for breakfast. The line is too long at the carwash, so we’re going to have to come back tomorrow morning. We’re not getting a snack from the vending machine. No I won’t let you play with my makeup brushes. No you may not use the wooden knives from your brother’s play kitchen to pretend to be a ninja.

Nonetheless, I’ve powered through our days instead of following my instincts to slow everything to a halt. It’s been so long since we’ve entered one of these streaks of terror that I forgot my tools for easing it. When he starts throwing tantrums like a toddler, it’s time to get on the floor and play with him instead of rushing to do the laundry, cook the food, clean the dishes, wipe up the mess, pack the bags, etc… It’s time to look him in the eye as often as possible and engage in whatever kind of play inspires him. It’s time to turn off the TV. It’s time to run around outside even if it’s freezing. It’s time to let him shoot me with his pretend pointer-finger gun (as much as I abhor that game). It’s time to chase him till he’s tired. And it’s time to wrestle. A lot.

These “no”-sparked tantrums withstand attempts at distraction, rationalizing, hugs, praying, yelling, bribery, threats and everything else. I could tell him yes, and that would stop his fit, but as a policy, I never reassess my decision after he’s skyrocketed to such heights of physical emotion, as I don’t want to enforce that behavior. We’d been through several tantrum cycles today so I already was weary. Then tonight, when he hit his brother, I reduced the bedtime books from three to two as a consequence.

A heated meltdown escalated and, ashamedly, I matched him, level for level.

He started crying. I remained firm, ignored the budding tantrum and began reading to his brother.

He screamed louder. And louder. I remained firm, and made myself feel better by making sarcastic comments about his decision to go ape shit instead of to relax and read with us.

He started writhing around on his bed, bouncing on the mattress and thumping his feet, all while screaming. I remained firm, and gathered disdainful glares from my own arsenal.

He threw his books across the room. I remained firm and withdrew all my emotion, creating a chilling calm. I hate when things are thrown, especially books, and I’m incensed when his brother’s right to X, Y or Z is intercepted by his seemingly intentional emotion.

He hopped around on the bed, crying loudly and purposefully trying to land his knees on my shins. And then, mom snapped.

I went ballistic. I grabbed him roughly, removed him from the bed, set him on the floor of the room next door, held his face in my hands and told him, not at all calmly: “Your behavior is unacceptable. You will stay here until you can calm down and read peacefully with us.”

I returned to the boys’ bedroom and locked the door to read to his brother. He pounded on the door and screamed and kicked it. I took a deep breath and got up to let him in. He pushed through the door, giving me some sass-mouth on the way in. He threw a book again and demanded I read all three books. Enraged, I grabbed his elbow in the way angry parents do, ushered him into the next room and spanked him five times, as hard as I could, on the bottom. I returned to his brother, who looked sick to his stomach. My eyes must’ve been terrifying. I softened, scooped him up, explained that I loved him and his brother so much and we snuggled while my oldest pounded the door, bawling.

I opened the door. He shrieked. “You shouldn’t have hit me, Mommy!!! You need to learn how to stop yourself!!!”

The truest fucking words he ever could’ve said.

But I wanted to whack him again right then. I really, really wanted to. Someone I love grew up hearing the phrase, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” and there, staring at my son’s emotionally derailed, irrationally defiant eyes, it was all I could do not to adopt that phrase as my own.

I consider myself conscious of my own inner drives, I’ve worked through much of my suppressed anger, I have such intense compassion for kids that I can’t even watch movies that hint at harm of children and I’m aware enough of my own limits that I know when to ask for help. Nonetheless, I found myself really wanting to resort to further violence to stop this ruinous tantrum. How on earth do people who’ve been raised in physically abusive households avoid repeating the pattern when faced with the horrendous behavior all kids exhibit from time to time? Sincerely, how do they do it?

Instead of hurting my son, I opted to acknowledge the truth.

“You’re right. I really apologize for doing that. But I don’t think either of us are in a good place for talking right now,” I glowered at him. “Let’s try to sit and read and just see if we can both calm down.”

He didn’t calm down, at least not right away. I didn’t calm down, either, at least not on the inside. It took about 30 minutes for him to collect himself enough to hear the words from the book, I Was So Mad, by Mercer Mayer.

“I am so mad!” he shouted immediately after I read the words from the book. Finally, he found the word for what he was feeling and, presumably, he felt powerful again. Seeing his empowerment, I was able to gather myself.

“I know, buddy. It’s ok for you to be mad at me. I’m still mad at you, too. But, even though we’re mad at each other, I still love you and you still love me,” I said, my voice hoarse from my emotional explosion. “I just want you to know that being mad doesn’t mean I don’t love you.” I tried to put my arm around him.

“I’m still too mad at you to hug you,” he blurted, curling up into a ball away from me. I wanted to sob.

Halfway into a Curious George book, his eyes were bright again. His body was less rigid and he leaned into me. His physical presence had shifted and he was engaged. We read, we completed the bedtime routine and, as they both sleep now, I’m feeling wrecked, empty and full of fear. Fearful of what tomorrow might bring if my son awakens with a mercurial temper. Fearful of what plans might be eliminated because of a freakout. Fearful of the emotional scars I may have caused tonight and other such times. Fearful of how I’ll respond when he blows a gasket again. Fearful about this side of myself that no part of me wants to admit is there. Fearful that this dark, explosive monster will raise its head again. It’s a wobbly feeling in my stomach, like the puzzle pieces of my entire being are askance.

As I understand it, the antidote to fear is love. Tonight we didn’t talk it out, and we didn’t hug it out, but I’m hoping tomorrow brings both. In the mean time, I’m going to go apologize to his sleeping body and set about cultivating a more patient, more loving me.

Afterward

Anyone who’s a parent knows kids can push buttons you never knew you had. Raising children sometimes causes you to dive so deep into your own darkness that you can’t even look at what’s there. To see it can be unsettling to the point of derailment. It’s terrifying for me to acknowledge my own patches of deep-down anger, my own quick temper, my own emotional nature, but it feels essential for me to do so in order to navigate beyond it.

The next morning did indeed bring a conversation between my son and I about our emotional-turned-physical collision. We apologized, explained to each other what set us off, reassured each other of how much we appreciate each other and promised (well, I did) not to let that happen again.

Ever the bold one, he also held me accountable for my inappropriate actions. In fact, excruciatingly and necessarily, he’s brought the incident up several times since. “Remember that time when you got so mad you didn’t stop yourself from slapping me?” he asks. My other son then says, “Yeah, Mommy, do you ‘member when you slapped my brother?”

To which I reply: “I do remember that. I really, really don’t feel good about the fact that I did that and I promise I will not slap either of you again. Just like you guys are learning, Mommy is learning how to stop herself, too. I’m so, so sorry I haven’t learned how to do that yet. You guys are very brave to step forward and be my sons and teach me all of this. I promise I’m getting better every day.”

Then I thank them for reminding me about what happened when I snapped. And I mean it.

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There is a fine line between my reaction to my son’s meltdown and child abuse. I recognize that and, believe me, my proximity to that line horrifies me. Even as I post this, I’m overcome with worry that, by exposing my own unacceptable behavior, I’ll be deemed unfit by all the world for caring for the children I love purely, completely and, oftentimes, divinely. It’s unbelievably scary to admit I’m not always serene and, as I like to say, mom-nastic, in my mothering.

In hindsight, I could’ve done a better job of recognizing where my emotional state was heading and redirected myself accordingly. Some things I could’ve done to stop myself from flipping out to the point of wanting to harm my son:

  • Called a friend. (It sounds trite, but I guarantee if I’d called a friend before freaking out, I would’ve gotten the support, and potentially the laugh, I needed to cool off in 30 seconds or less.)
  • Bagged the whole thing and brought everyone downstairs to watch a cartoon, which would’ve pulled us all out of our highly charged state and given me the chance to regroup. Once we were all calmed down, I could then proceed with a hug and a healing conversation.
  • Reminded myself that his behavior wasn’t a reflection of years of my own shitty parenting up to that moment. Usually, when I get angry with my kids, it’s because I feel like they’re acting in a way that reflects some deficiency in my own self and the job I’m doing as a mom. I feel like, if I can’t figure out a way to help this situation, then it means I’m not enough. This is a belief about myself I dearly want to release.

For more tips, see the incredibly helpful PDF from Prevent Child Abuse America, entitled “Twelve Alternatives to Lashing Out at Your Child.” http://www.preventchildabuse.org/publications/parents/downloads/twelve_alternatives.pdf

Miraculous healing follows my shoulder-shaking maiden snowboarding shred

I hurt myself superbadly about a week and a half ago. I went snowboarding with Brian and, admittedly, I fell down my fair share—onto my hands despite a seasoned rider’s advice to fall differently—and my joints in both arms ached, but it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. In fact, riding that board down the bunny hill was the most challenging, gleeful thing I’d done in a while. I loved it. Next morning, I woke up with debilitating pain in my rotator cuff, the likes of which I’d never known in 15 years of swimming, and I struggled to lift my right arm as pain coursed through the muscles of my collarbone over my shoulder bone, around my back and into my armpit.

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This I was just after I unknowingly injured myself doing a McTwist* in Shaun White’s half pipe* over the weekend. I hurt my shoulder fist pumping too hard.(*By “Shaun White’s half pipe,” I’m of course referring to what was probably a snow-covered landfill in Algonquin, Ill. And by McTwist*, I mean “snowboarding lesson.” Brian, a former professional ski bum, and I were seeking a level playing field so we could finally enjoy a snowy hill together without testing our marriage.)

I’d never been injured like this, physically, before. Snowboarding was my first attempt at overt athletic adventure since I became a mom four years ago, and I was a little bit furious and embarrassed I hurt myself doing it. The pain was terrific. It woke me at night and kept me up. I couldn’t move without grimacing. I couldn’t spread peanut butter on bread, slice a pear, lift my boys, play with them in the fresh snow, pet the dogs or do anything but throw all my focus into containing the pain. It reminded me of childbirth, that continuous, all-consuming pain that doesn’t go away until you hold your baby.

When the pain didn’t go away after two days, I knew I needed help. On the third day, an occupational therapist friend, who specializes in shoulders and arms, told me that, based on my impaired range of motion, I needed therapy probably for four to six weeks.

That same day, I booked it to the office of Dr. Dan Mossell at Mossell Holistic and cried on his table as he dug into the tenderest parts of my distressed rotator cuff—and my memory. Indeed, it appeared I’d been holding onto some issues in my tissues and, while the physical trauma was real, the injury of repetitive falls brought psychological issues to the forefront as well. As is a common experience for anyone attempting to lead a spiritual life, the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual often end up being connected. (Natch, everything is connected.) Specifically, an old belief surfaced: that my worth in the world hinged on whether I was successful. When I was a swimmer, especially in my teens, I defined myself almost entirely by how I performed in the pool, or by how I failed to perform, and that definition carried me into adulthood. How hard could I work to win enough recognition to prove I was as good as everyone else, maybe even better?

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Ah, highlights from my swimming grab bag. My parents recently returned to me a duffle containing all my old swimming photos, trophies, ribbons and medals, which date back roughly to when the KC Royals won the World Series (middle pic, circa age 8) and tell the story of a kid’s swimming life. It’s fun to revisit those times, memorabilia of which I hadn’t seen in a decade, but there’s more to the story. If I win this race, if I get this time, if I advance to the finals, if I help my team win, if all this hard work pays off and I happen to succeed, that makes me enough, right? That makes me good, right? That makes me better, right? And if I don’t win or advance, then…what does that make me? (Cue the catastrophe of self worth based on ego-bred ideals.) These beliefs are hard to unseat, but miracles are happening all the time.

That night after downing some arnica and icing my shoulder, as I sat in a near-scalding bath, skin glistening with Epsom salts packed around my rotator cuff, I discovered I was still hanging onto the tired old idea that an Emily who did great things was the best, most-enough Emily. And so, with some trepidation, I went into that feeling. I looked around in there, asked for help, thanked my muscles for everything they do, told my tissues it was safe to release the pain and confirmed with my highest self that I was ready to receive the opportunity to live bigger.

I prayed for the pain to be released, and I went to bed.

I woke the next morning to find my shoulder still hurt, so I went to see our family doctor, a former pro athlete who’d once suffered this same injury. He empathetically prescribed lots of ice, rest and Vicotin for nighttime. “It’s going to be at least two weeks before the pain subsides, before you can get comfortable enough to even sleep at night,” he warned. “And then you’re probably going to need four to six weeks of physical therapy. So just don’t expect to be your usual self and take it really easy.”

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It had been a while (15 years?) since the last time I packed a bag of ice directly onto my shoulder for 30 minutes. My rotator cuff was killing me, but the dog-and-kid snuggles were magically healing.

I slogged through the rest of the day with my arm plastered to my side, iced my shoulder in front of the TV with the boys, took the Vicotin gratefully that night, meditated and took another bath. There in the tub, by the light of one candle, I envisioned myself as radiantly healthy. I directed my consciousness toward appreciation of everything that I am. I tried to picture myself swinging Kip through the air, doing downward dog, feeling powerful in my body, being glowingly grateful for everything, but especially for the four amazing muscles that comprise my rotator cuff and enable some of life’s most wonderful movements—stretching, hugging, dancing, twirling children, reaching for the sky…

It wasn’t easy, and it took some deep breathing, some deep prayer and some deep faith, but I released the old beliefs about my worth in the world, replacing them with the truth that I am a child of God, therefore I am wondrous despite anything I do. There’s no decision to be made about me; I just am.

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Trophies, real or imagined, no longer define me, not even when an old one surfaces from my parents’ basement and makes its way into the hands of my boys, who think it’s the coolest sword with which they’ve ever played.

I woke the next morning tired, but no longer in pain. For good measure, I returned to Dan Mossell’s table for a second treatment one week after the snowboarding adventure. This time, there were no tears or cold sweats as he went to work on my shoulder. My range of motion was almost back, and he sent me away with the advice to take it easy, but gave me permission to stretch. “If it feels good, do it,” he said. “If it doesn’t, don’t.”

Ten days after our snowboarding adventure, which I will totally try again, despite Dan’s advice to try skis next time (“You know how you take down a steer, don’t you, Emily?” he quipped. “You tie its legs together.” ), I have no pain and my range of motion is almost completely back to normal. I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t surprised, considering how excruciating the pain was a week ago but, then again, I believe in miracles.

This is no accident. This is no misdiagnosis. This is no freak recovery. This is no coincidence. This feels like a miracle to me. And the amazing thing is that we’re all capable of receiving our own miracles, if we ask for them. This experience hurting and healing my shoulder is a timely reminder of the power of heart-centered prayer, meditation and good old-fashioned openness.

What is holding you back right now? Is it physical pain, emotional pain, beliefs you hold about yourself or the world in general? Whatever it is, take a moment to visit your own dark, quiet, healing space, be it your bathtub, your meditation room or your bedroom just before you fall asleep, and ask for help. Look right at whatever it is and give it permission to leave, if that’s what you want. See yourself living in the way you want to live. Believe that the vision is really you. Hold that vision and trust it will be so. And, if you’re so inspired, message me about your vision and I’ll hold it, charging it with prayer, for you as well. May a miracle so unimaginably wonderful take place in your life and bring you joy upon joy.

You want to change? Ok. You asked for it…

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This might be the precise moment in which I conjured the inner storm, which hit approximately four days later.

What in the universe is going on here? One moment I’m asking to be more loving during a mini-meditation on the beach in San Francisco, then I’m back at home feeling a good kind of wobbly after a dharma yoga class, and the next thing I know, I’m in my kitchen discovering the unsettling truth about a mean-spirited side of myself who berates me from within. Suddenly, and without clear reason, I whiplash my way into a blur of anxiety, insomnia, fear and self-doubt.

About 48 hours into a vortex of major inner ickiness, it was clear as day.

I asked for this.

I’ve got to remember that, when making a sincere request of the Universe so cavalierly, it may involve the routing of my soul. Like the collected debris that slows the shower drain demands a call to our trusty plumber so the water may drain freely again, an earnest request of God, of the Universe, can mean the not-so-pleasant cleansing of old gunk that no longer serves us so that the intention we set while we were feeling strong may newly flow freely through us.

My simple request—make me a channel for divine love—was like placing a work order with the Universe. But, paradoxically, I’m the one socked with the work. And, sometimes, that work is tremendously uncomfortable. I’m not saying it has to be uncomfy—in fact I believe if you ascribe to the laws of the spiritual realm rather than the material realm, life unfolds way more fluidly and pleasantly—but I often find that my darkest times come just after I’ve set an intention for a better me, and just before a massive inner shift.

In my experience, change or, in this case, spiritual evolution, can be a bumpy ride, at least when you’re working through the really tough clogs. Take this, my most recent request, for example: I asked something that seemed so simple (to be more loving) and I received an answer that is particularly challenging to my makeup—To love others divinely, first love yourself divinely. This challenge sent me through a gauntlet of a to-do list:

  1. See yourself as loving, and treat yourself with love.
  2. Observe where you are showing yourself unconditional love, and where you are not. Notice the difference between the two attitudes and how, respectively, they impact you and your loved ones when you’re in each space. (i.e., My kids are radiantly happy when I am feeling good about myself and they unfailingly turn into assholes when I’m in the space of being hard on myself. They’re barometers for my emotions—as most little kids are—and often reflect my beliefs about myself at any given moment.)
  3. Study yourself without attachment. Without judging yourself, anyone else, or anything, Emily, see if you can figure out why you’re showing yourself love and why you’re not. Observe, reflect, accept, release. Take your time.
  4. If you feel badly, it doesn’t mean you ARE bad. If you feel good, it doesn’t mean you ARE good. Feeling badly can mean wonderful shifting is in progress. Habits are hard to change, and the process can smart a bit. This is important to remember in our shame-happy society.
  5. Step boldly into your new, divinely loving self and feel gratitude that your request was answered.

Oh, how I long for step 5 right now. For me, this is process is painful up until the moment I realize I’m on the other side of it. And that’s ok. Really looking at my “stuff” and going against habit to choose another way is incredibly challenging. That said, while I’ve yet to come through on the other side of this one, I’ve emerged glowing from other similarly turbulent periods of transformation, so I know the process works. In fact, going through the process of routing the stuff that’s no longer serving my highest and greatest good is the only way I know how to be, how to grow and, in this case, how to learn to love. And, through it all, I must trust that all the opportunities I’m receiving to confront my ugliest, most un-loving ways are actually the blessings that will usher me toward the divine love to which I aspire.

How my search for a more loving me applies to your search for a more (insert desired quality) you:

This process can be applied to almost any intention you set for yourself. You may have your own trusted way of evolving, but here’s how the process of spiritual evolution might look for you:

  1. To set an intention for X (insert desired quality here), first cultivate thoughts of X about yourself.
  2. Observe where/when you are able to do this, and where/when you are not. Allow yourself the permission to really explore your feelings, and notice how different deep-seated “stuff” affects the way you approach the world and those around you.
  3. Study yourself without judgment or attachment. Without judging yourself, anyone else or anything, see if you can uncover the “why” behind your roadblocks to becoming the quality you desire. Observe, reflect, accept, release. Take your time.
  4. As different emotions or even physical sensations arise, remember that if you feel badly, it doesn’t mean you ARE bad. You are processing, releasing and changing, and that can cause any number of inner storms. If you need some love and support when you’re in this—and I know I do—reach out to friends, counselors, pastors, partners, whoever.
  5. Congratulations, you’ve done it! Step confidently and with gratitude into your newly shifted self.

Evicting my mean organizing troll. Or, the backstory on why Pinterest terrifies me.

I’ve been trying to be more organized. There’s just something about those women with their gracious entryways, cute yoga pants and seasonal toss pillows that makes me swoon. (The same goes for you boys out there with your fancy kitchens, Mad Men hair and well-lit artwork…I get weak in the knees over you, too.) When I walk into an organized, beautifully appointed home in which everything has its place, storage is optimized and clutter is a swear word, I feel like a five-year-old staring at my pretty teenage babysitter, mesmerized by her glistening beauty and desperately yearning to be a picture of polished feminine grace just like her one day.

Unfortunately, this awe spawns the rise of a nasty, nasty troll deep within who drives me into a frenzy of cleaning, obsessing, moving stuff around and placing unspectacularly arranged vases of flowers everywhere. Because that’s what the organized people do…they put flowers in the bathroom, flowers on the porch, flowers in the basement, flowers by the stove…

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Darn it. When I moved this bench to the window, I forgot to put some flowers by the dog.

On coffee and not much sleep, I gutted my kitchen shelves yesterday. I’d scooped up one of those “Organize!” or “Storage!” magazines in the check-out line and made the mistake of reading it before bed. And so two nights ago I reclined with my eyes open for possibly hours thinking of what I would rearrange the next day. Sort! Purge! Keep! Find it a home! Boom! A beautiful home is mine!

I moved a bench. I moved a table. I moved chairs. And I moved all my cookbooks because on-the-fly meal prep suits me well in this season of everyday life. What did not suit me was an overflowing basket of plastic grocery bags, using my shelves to store a bazillion pairs of shoes and a bar counter cluttered with stand mixers, juicers, tissues, hand sanitizers, fruit bowls and catch-all trays. And so I turned this shelf-and-bar-counter area into what the organized people call a “hub” or a “workstation.” A mail organizer on one shelf for incoming and outgoing mail and magazines, container-bound keys and glasses/sunglasses on another shelf, cutting boards in one slot, easily accessible kids cups and plates on another, a respectable amount of grocery bags down low for dog walking, the stand mixer put away and a countertop almost completely clear for dropping stuff when we walk in the back door—and, of course, for displaying flower arrangements.

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This is my super awesomely organized set of shelves. To the trained eye, it’s most definitely flawed. But for a girl who might possibly have no left side to her brain, this is, like, worthy of much praise.

I admit, my organizing muses, Lindsay, Becca, Cin and Grandma, whose homes inspire me to no end in their vastly different executions of beauty and fluidity, might not find my new hub inspiring, but it’s a start. This new “system,” another organizey word I learned when I hired an amazing professional organizer to save me from myself a few years ago, is better than it was before, and my mind feels clearer, and I enjoy being in the space a lot more with it this way.

But it was hell getting there.

You would not believe how mean I can be to myself. From the moment I opened “The Organized Home” (even the mag title taunts, no?), I felt wobbly in my gut, where I usually store my emotions. Excited about the prospect of a more neatly arranged kitchen, but tainted with an ominous feeling. A feeling of not-enough-ness.

As I got started, my nasty inner troll emerged like a drill sergeant trying to break me at basic training (not that I’ve actually attended basic training, so, this may not be an acceptable simile.) “Oh, that’s cute. You’re on a little organizing kick. That’s funny. You want to have a pretty home, don’t you, little girl? Well, you had that couple over for dinner thinking your kitchen was warm and inviting but the whole time they were looking at your messy-ass shelves and wondering if the food you made had dog hair in it. Heh. Probably time for you to make things a little more presentable, dontcha think? At the rate you’re going, you’re always gonna be a sorry excuse for a homemaker. Not even Better Homes & Gardens’ Storage can help you, honey.”

Any time I venture to clean the house, which is often, or reorganize a room, this horrid little troll rears her head, ever full of sarcasm. “You think you’re such a wise thing but, wait, what’s that? You can’t figure out how to make your stuff look nice and be functional at the same time? Aw, that’s too bad. And you thought you were someone special. You can’t figure out a better place to put your shoes? You don’t have attractive, matching containers for those? If I were you, I’d be too embarrassed to have anyone over. Ever. I mean, you put your kids’ dress-up costumes in a giant Rubbermaid container instead of a seagrass basket from Pottery Barn…what the hell kind of inviting home does that make? Why are you even trying to do this? You’re so far behind you’ll never get anywhere with this organizing kick. Just quit now.”

This little troll goes on and on, providing commentary on every little thing I throw away, everything I keep, everything I place with intention, every flower I trim and drop into a vase. And I wonder why I end up feeling jittery and nauseous every time I try to tackle an organizing project.

Turns out that, at the same time I’m doing something really nice for myself, I’m driven by a decidedly miserable motivation: the belief that, without a constantly beautiful, tidy home and the high-functioning, catalog-ready organization of our possessions, I’m not good enough. In fact, I’m worthless. I’m a meek and homely little kindergartner pining for confidence, magnetism and physical beauty out of my reach.

Ack! It feels terrible. And I am not in the business of making myself feel icky—I love to feel good, and I take great care to make sure I feel fantastic most of the time. So I don’t know why this happens every time I clean or organize. And I don’t know how to stop it. But, in addition to bringing attention to it following meditation, I’m going to get past it the same way I got into it.

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The vision board, possible culprit for the new energy and inspiration I have to get organized.

A long time ago, I posted a couple pictures on my bulletin board, let’s call it a “vision board,” that evoke the more organized self I’d like to be. And so, here I am now, evidently with the appropriate level of energy and inspiration to become that person. However, it’s clear to me that my energy around this theme is actually hardcore detrimental. I missed something in that vision-board intention: Honor for the wonderfully right-brained woman I am. And the understanding that neatly storing my giftwrap so that I can craft gorgeous hostess gifts at a moment’s notice will not make my soul any more radiant.

I’m not sure how to go about employing my vision board to make myself both self-loving AND organizey, but I trust it will unfold for me. Perhaps I’ll find clippings of images that evoke joyful, wild-haired women relishing their organized, though mismatched, spaces. Or photos of wild horses running through kilim rug fields littered with potato-sack boulders stuffed with kids dress-up clothes beneath wire-hanger clouds. I don’t know.

I do know I want to change my beliefs about what it means to be neat and organized, and about what I’m not if I’m not. I also want to evict the nasty troll. And, more than anything, as it’s clear to me that my pain around wanting to be organized and have a pretty home reflects a deeper issue at hand, I want to emerge from this excruciating pattern triumphantly radiant and full of gratitude for all that I am. I think that’s a reasonable request.

For those of you reading this who have your own inner troll wreaking havoc in its own way, I send the most sincere energy toward your complete liberation, your radiant spirit and your infinite gratitude for all that you are. Because, believe it or not, you really are something special.

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May we all see the light of our own perfection, and the falsity in our not-enough-ness.

Get your 12-12-12 meditation on!

If you’re ready to feel peaceful and free in a major way, go ahead and click here. (In case you’re wondering, it’s a free guided meditation.)

You may have heard or felt some whirring about 12-12-12 yesterday. It was a cool date, right? And now we have the upcoming 12-21-12, which also is significant, but not in the apocalyptic way Hollywood likes to portray it.

Energetically speaking, December 21 marks the end of an era in humanity, and it also brings about the beginning of a new way of life on earth, a higher vibration of humankind. The days leading up to it are an immensely favorable time to let go of old sides of yourself you don’t need anymore so that your most radiant, uncluttered self can step forward.

“The time between December 12 and 21 is especially powerful for creating your most fulfilling life,” says my friend, Alicia Isaacs Howes*, who knows these things. As such, while the energies of the universe are behind our evolution, Alicia and her equally awesome pal, Kari Samuels*, put together a FREE global meditation event to guide us in honoring the past and envisioning for the future.

Visit Alicia and Kari at their website, 12 12 12 Global Meditation Event, to download free recordings of two amazingly potent meditations. I plugged in my headphones and listened last night before going to sleep and I felt some incredible shifts take place. Such release. Such peace. Such beauty. Such promise.

A lot can be said about this time between December 12 and December 21, but for the purposes of this post, here’s what you need to know:

  1. The energies in the universe are supporting the healing of your past.
  2. The stage is set for the envisioning of your bright future.
  3. Everything to which you aspire is already inside of you.

In the next week or so, go out and claim your higher vibration. It’s closer than you think. Get your global meditation on!

*Alicia and Kari are more than just neato friends who post recordings online. Here’s what they’re about:

Kari Samuels is an Intuitive Counselor & Happiness Coach. In addition to her ability as an energy healer, she is highly sought-after for her expertise and innovation as a numerologist. Using the only letters of your name and the numbers in your birth date – she can tune into your past, present and future, decipher your destiny, and guide you on your path toward happiness like a human GPS. If there is an area in your life that needs more joy, Kari can shed light on dark places and lift your spirits with remarkable insight. She has helped countless people find and maintain happy relationships by reminding them how to love themselves. She is known to fuse entertainment with enlightenment, wit with wisdom, and psychic with sassy. In addition to using her own abilities, Kari has taught hundreds of people around the world how to access their intuition, as well as harness the power of numbers to enhance one’s life. It is her joy to help others manifest their divine potential. To learn more about her inspirational offerings, visit her website at:
www.karisamuels.com

Alicia Isaacs Howes, founder of Your Soul Story and international soul connection expert, has explored thousands of soul stories with people all over the world for more than a decade. A formal global management expert from London, England who specialized in business process improvement who’s health crisis 14 years ago led her to not only her own healing, but a whole new way of looking at life as a healer, intuitive coach, and teacher. Alicia still finds ways to do things better, but now focuses on people rather than only processes. With her intuitive approach, caring insight, and powerful guidance, she empowers her clients to start, expand, and end all kinds of chapters in their lives. She focuses on helping her clients connect to their authentic self – become the author of their story – and let go of all the stuff that stifles joy, hampers happiness, or dims their smiles. She sees clearly her clients’ potential, and shines that back to them with love, light and often shared laughter too. To learn more about how Alicia can help you not just grow but flourish, visit her website at www.yoursoulstory.com