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

And the winner of the Mrs. Party Mom Pageant is… Emily’s shadow side! (cue the crown and the tears.)

Last Friday night I really kicked up my heels. Somewhere deep down, my moxie was rising and a well-timed girls night set off the eruption. Absinthe, wine, gin…woo hooooo! Let’s just say that, had I been competing in the Mrs. Party Mom pageant, I totally would’ve won.

In fact, I won so huge that my inhibitions loosened enough for me to give my girlfriends an extemporaneous reading from my future tell-all autobiography. Historically, this seems to be what I do when I drink too much. (Aside: Perhaps you have something unsavory you notice about yourself when you’ve had too much to drink? Or even when you’re sober, but just not at your best?) I spilled every insidious story I could conjure–no specifics here; you have to get me drunk first. By purging myself of a few deep-down details, in my drunken state, I thought I’d somehow be free of their weight. I hoped I would be accepted despite them.

Blessings on my friends, because they are indeed an accepting bunch. However, instead of feeling free, it turns out I dredged my stuff only to feel it—hard—by the light of the next day. When I woke up at 10 in the morning because my immeasurably wondrous, and obviously majestically understanding, husband let me sleep in, my interior monologue unfolded something like this:

Wow, I was pretty drunk last night. That was so fun—wait, uh oh. I think I told them about that time I—why did I tell them that? Now they probably think I’m such a— What do they think of me now? I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I was saying whatever was on my mind, and that’s never good. I hope no one thinks I’m a horrible person. Oh shit. What if they do?! Oh, God, please make this awful feeling go away. Oh no! There was that random guy who was dancing with my friend and then sat down and I started talking to him about God and I’m pretty sure I attempted to give him a psychic reading. I’m so dumb. Why did I let myself lose control?

The feeling of overexposure took its place as a terrible beast sitting in my gut. Heavy. Depressing. Churning. Shame. The beast of shame rolled to meet my gaze and suddenly looked familiar. What do they think of me? Them, them, them. Ah! We meet again, old foe. You, my mortal enemy, were the voice that always prevented me from flying by asking, “But what will they think?” I defeated you weeks, months, maybe years ago. It was a grueling battle, but all that remained of your voice was the echo. Why have you returned, guns blazing?

And the voice replied: Because you have not yet accepted your own shadow. 

My old foe stepped forward into the light and I saw that it was God:

Where there is light, there also is darkness. They coexist in this dualistic world. Neither is good or bad. It just is. I’m calling you to look at your dark sides and embrace them for what they are—a part of you. My child, do not hide who you are, even if it appears unsavory. Know thyself. Aspects of everyone’s karma and mental makeup cast shadows in their own light. I release you of all shame for revealing darkened sides of yourself, and I encourage you to accept all of who you are.

Standing in my kitchen, mid-task, with my mouth and the cabinet wide open, I felt lighter. Despite the fact that a.) I know it’s not good for my body to fill it with cocktails and deprive it of sleep, and b.) I technically broke my own vow (see my earlier post, “What? You mean drunk moms aren’t awesome?”), the suffocating shame from this Friday and a thousand Fridays was not rooted in my over-consumption of booze, but rather in my reliable tendency to drunkenly reveal darker sides of myself I haven’t yet examined, acknowledged and embraced.

Flying high on cocktails and candid girl talk, I delve into stories I’m traditionally too guarded to tell in sober daylight. From my days as a reckless sorority girl (YOLO!) to the present, an over-served Emily becomes a loose cannon. Then, when I wake the next day, I’m horrified at what might’ve come out of my mouth. On a more honest note, I’m afraid of what is actually inside of me. I’ve always tried to explain it away to myself that “drinking makes me someone I’m not.” Hold up, Princess. This is who you are and it’s high time you take a closer look at it.

What a relief! This is something I can face. Being charged with investigating my own shadows, feeling around in the pitch-black crevices of my consciousness, getting to know the darkened nooks and crannies of my whole self so that I may embrace my own complete nature… It’s a daunting assignment, and one that will surely require great attention, but at least it doesn’t have to be a battle any longer.

My wish for you: May you encounter your own shadows when the time is right, and may you feel completely supported and accepted for them in their revelation to you.

(Disclaimer: You can probably accomplish an investigation of your shadow side or the taming of your own shame with something other than absinthe and martinis. If I were to do the past few days all over again, I would probably choose prayer, meditation, therapy, devotional reading, chanting and a big hot bath. Just my two cents.)

Bear with me and all these bullet points, but I’d like to discuss your bangin’ body

You know you’re gorgeous, don’t you? I bet you can do some incredible things with that body.

For reals, you know you can do anything with your body, right? I mean, you’re lovely as is, but all this talk of hard-work weight loss is weighing me down. If it’s important to you, there’s another way.

I noticed a recent Facebook status update from a friend requesting weight-loss motivation. In response to her update was string of recommendations for workout websites, strict eat-right plans and running challenges. Tools are obviously helpful with weight loss, yet they don’t touch the underlying issues—aka, feelings—that can prevent a typical person from having the leaner, fuller, stronger, pain-free-er, whatever-er, body he or she desires.

This is me the month before I became pregnant for the first time. I felt so free on this trip to Hawaii. I cleared so much on this trip. I was just beginning to understand the idea of being freed by inner awareness. My body has changed so much in the years since and, finally, I’m delighted to report, I’m a whole lot closer to “free” than I was when Brian snapped this pic of me.

So, let’s now address the elephant in the room. To you who are feeling dissatisfied with the current shape of your body, I ask you the following:

When you’re alone with your eyes closed in meditation or rest, how do you feel about yourself?

Breathe into that. You’re pretty rad, aren’t you? Wonderful, in fact. Yep, you’re positively loveable. So now that we’ve established the fact that you totally kick ass (you really do), let’s get to the heart of it.

You are a rare gem and, while you are not just a body, your body is a priceless treasure. (Quick exercise 1: Say that to yourself while looking in the mirror.)

You are worth taking care of. (Quick exercise 2: Say to yourself, “I am worth taking care of.”)

Taking care of yourself takes many forms, but in the realm of body composition, it involves empowering yourself, CEO-of-your-body, to make eating and lifestyle choices that resonate with your own template for health and wellbeing. More on that later.

First, here are some reasons not to lose weight:

  • For appearances
  • For someone else
  • To get the attention of a suitor
  • Because you think you should conform to conventional images of beauty
  • You think your body is all you have

I’m always struck with the effortlessness of my sons’ respective body images. Neither have baggage; Charlie can carry the boogie board all by himself. “Look at what I can do with my body!” is all that matters to him.

Now we’ve established your desire for weight loss is rooted in self-love (because this won’t work if it’s not), let’s continue…

In our material world, we are so quick to rush to a friend’s side with skinny-fying suggestions without even asking how he or she feels about what’s on the inside. Anti-feminist propaganda tells us that, in order to be today’s woman, we must be thin. And sexy. Thin is sexy. Unfortunately, “thin” is one of a long list of Pinterest-perfect expectations by which we’re being duped.

Love yourself like God and the Universe love you and you’ll reach your highest expression of self, physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and mentally. How you compare with images of societally agreed-upon sexiness won’t even matter at that point. (except, of course, when it suddenly does matter, but ideally you’ll be able to catch yourself before going down that treacherous path.)

Drilling down, here’s how I believe self-love looks in relation to weight loss

If you want to lose weight, go for it. But rather than cruelly demanding you get thinner and better right now, take the long view. Approach your new eating and exercise choices with the mindfulness of aiming for your body’s highest and fullest expression of itself.

Big picture: Self-love spawns self-care. Self-love also spawns a strengthening of the will, which changes habits. An equation: Self-love –> self-care + changed habits –> a strong, proportioned body. An affirmation: I give thanks, for I am free of all bad habits. Daily my power of dynamic will strengthens.

How self-love feels: Amazing, like you just got permission to do something you can’t believe is actually allowed. You know you’re in this world for a reason so, in every way, you treat yourself like you’re the ultra-special someone you are.

How self-love works to change your body, from a spiritual perspective: When you become mindful of your divine birthright—that you come from and are infused with God—you know your unlimited potential to be anything you want. You understand that your body can achieve any template you set for it because in God, all things are possible. I recommend picking up a meditation practice to get your awareness on.

Self love feels a little like running around a playground.

Self love in practice, as it relates to your kickin’ body:

  1. You feed yourself foods that make your light brighter. (Not-so-quick exercise 3: Sit in stillness, focusing on your breath. When you feel very calm, in your own words, ask your body questions like, “How often shall I eat pizza? How many glasses of wine are too many? When do you feel best? What makes you feel icky? Do you want me to eat dairy? How do you feel about meat? Are you ok with coffee? What do sweet treats do to you? Etc.” You’ll probably have a gut reaction to each question, so pay attention to what you “hear” first. Write it down. Then try it out. Tweak your diet according to your body’s answers to your questions and see how you feel, and how your body responds.)
  2. You eat with intention, slowly, and enjoy every bite.
  3. You pay attention to how your body responds to food, thoughts and activities. You honor what you notice. As CEO of your body and your life, this is your wondrous job.
  4. You move your body in ways that honor and enhance its awesome mechanics. You relish what you and your body can do together.
  5. You do things for yourself that allow you to be at your most vibrant:
  • Sleep!
  • Exercise
  • Take baths
  • Clear your calendar
  • Drink lots of water
  • Play outside, be outside
  • Cook with intention
  • Make plans with people who empower you
  • Sit down to eat regular meals
  • Buy groceries you know will make you feel awesome
  • Keep a gentle and kind internal monologue
  • Take care of your body by going to the dentist, the doctor, the chiropractor, the massage therapist, the hair dresser, the nail salon, etc.

Sleep makes everyone feel better.

In case you’re wondering why I’m all preachy about love and losing weight, read on…

My body and I have a complicated past. Do you and yours?

High expectations, glaring disappointment, passive aggression, ugly criticism, lack of gratitude, eating disorders and an inability to listen to anything it ever had to say to me. Me, pointed. My body, resentful.

About four months ago, I figured out the connection between self-love and my eating/exercise habits. Older versions of me would’ve rejected the term “self love” as narcissistic, arrogant and cloying, but the healthier me notes the precedence of love over almost every other energy in the universe. Finally, the new me in my head started to sound a little less mean (“What’s wrong with you carrying around all this extra weight and not being able to say no to that cookie? Why can’t you just be thin, body? What’s your deal?”) and a little more like this:

  • “Way to go figuring out which food has been giving you hives. You don’t need to itch, honey. I know you love the way bread and cookies taste, but it’s ok not to eat that stuff very often, if at all. You’re taking great care of yourself.”
  • “Wow, you’re a little jittery after that cup of coffee. I can see you don’t like how that feels. Guess what—I know you love coffee, so we’ll try decaf and see if that works better for you.”
  • “You really don’t feel very well when you don’t get enough sleep, girl, and you’re worth a good night’s sleep. Treat yourself to an early bedtime. Every night.”
  • “You never have to tell anyone about it, but you seem to want to go for a run.
    Go ahead, give yourself 30 minutes to walk, jog, run, sprint, whatever. Listen to that ridiculous song you love. You’ll feel so good afterward.”

Enjoying food.

I have no official initials behind my name to endorse my theory of the link between self-love and weight loss, but there’s this: After four months of this new perspective, I’m almost daily getting the question from people I haven’t seen in a while, “Have you lost weight?”

Honestly, I’m not sure whether I’ve lost physical weight, but I feel hundreds of pounds lighter, spiritually. My body and I cashed in our lifelong membership to a brutal, clandestine fight club for a more peaceful, gradual, lasting way–loving myself enough to grant myself a sound, healthy body–and I think it’s actually working.

It should be stated that I haven’t lost however many pounds and 30 years of pent-up junk all by myself. I’m an unwavering advocate of seeking resonant resources to recognize, release and rise above that which oppresses. (evidently, i’m also an advocate of accidental alliteration.) Meditation, energy healing, affirmations, bodywork, counseling and intuitive guidance have boosted me forth in my quest for a healthier, brighter me. Consider this your permission to seek the support that’ll get you into your best-self kind of space.  

Spiritual weight loss, a convoluted how-to:

  1. Figure out what’s holding you back from loving yourself. What are you holding onto that’s keeping you from attaining the body you desire? Feel free to employ any third parties that resonate with your value system to assist with this process.
  2. Clear it. I personally appreciate the assistance of prayer, meditation, affirmations, therapists, counselors, body workers, energy workers, psychics and friends. Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss is a practical tool for uncovering your divine self.
  3. Go forth honoring yourself and your body in everything you do. See and feel the results.

One’s motivation for weight loss may vary but, as I see it, the best reason for wanting to hone your body is this: Love. Love yourself fully, put that love into practice and the physical results will follow.

With some luck, you’ll learn to appreciate your body for what it can do (walk, dance, bear children, chase kids and dogs, bend, swim, lift heavy things, hug, carry kids, etc.) rather than what it can’t do (be a runway model, turn heads on a red carpet, etc.) Gratitude and love for your body will free it.

I spent Saturday afternoon touristing around town with a wonderful old friend who lavished me with the kind of talking-to only good friends can: “You have always been a cute girl, but you’re, like, an incredibly beautiful woman, now. It’s about time you really believe that.” (I’m really working on owning the practice of self-love and gratitude for my body rather than just blogging about it. It’s an ongoing effort.)

My personal corncob oracle

This corncob, exquisitely gnawed by my two-year-old, got me imagining a life free from slavery to the “shoulds.”

Kip clearly has not been taught how to eat corn on the cob properly.

“Ahm awl done wiff my corn!” he proclaimed, handing me a mangled half-ear I’d boiled the night before for our picnic.

“All done? Really?” I was baffled. He should’ve eaten it in a line. I should’ve shown him how.

“Yep, Mommy,” he responded. “Ahm awl done wiff my corn. It was wiwwy good. Here you go.”

I studied the teeth-ravished maze in my hand. How on earth did he chart this course of mastication? Bite here. Turn 15 degrees. Nibble. Slide to the left. Bite all the way to the cob. Turn backward 90 degrees. Bite. Twist, lick, examine, give to mom. All done.

It was equal parts hilarious and mystifying and, the more I marveled at it, strikingly familiar. In my hand was my own farm-fresh mirror.

My life, present and past, must look something like Kip’s corn on the cob. Honestly, everyone’s course, when not presented through the artfully crafted vignettes of Facebook and cocktail party conversation, probably looks a little jagged. There’s usually not a ton of logic in anyone’s itinerary to the present moment. Back and forth, build on this, start over, jump to that, go way over here, head back there, miss that boat, catch that plane, try this, circle back to there.

And yet, despite really loving the idea of hoisting the sail and trusting the Universe to navigate for me, no matter how roundabout the voyage, I sometimes feel like my corncob *should* look a little neater.

It’s hard to connect the dots as to why, but holding that ear of corn, I started to judge myself for all my current misgivings. I should be, I should do, I should have, I should know…. “Should” = comparison. Shriek! That’s so oppressing!

Kip had no shame about how he ate his corn. In fact, he had no recognition there even might be another way to do it. He just did it his way. Just how he liked it. And when he was finished, he released it. Can it be that simple? That light and airy and pleasurable?

Donna, the magnificent energy healer, gave me a simple affirmation, which synchronistically coincided with my corncob-spawned descent into the icky comparison place:

“I forgive me.”

It feels ridiculously cheesy to say it aloud, or even in my head, but it’s surprisingly powerful. And freeing. Just say it, without even thinking about that from which you want freedom–no need drawing energy to it. I forgive me. No matter the path I’ve taken, not taken, am taking, am not taking, will or will not take, it’s all “wiwwy good.” I forgive me.

Kip shows me how to eat corn on the cob (aka, how to live.)

If I may…

Kip’s corncob oracle raised a few questions, the answers to which I’m still working out, but the resounding answer to all four questions is something like “You will soar.” If you’re so inclined, feel free to ask your darling self the same questions I’m pondering:

1. What if I didn’t buy into the messages I’ve long received about the importance of being perfect? (Society, for reals, why’re you so bitchy?)

2. What if I deleted the idea I’m “supposed” to do certain things the “right” way?

3. What if I just blithely cut my own path, gnarled and illogical as it might seem on the outside, without indulging the shame I sometimes feel for not looking like I have it all together?

4. What if I completely trusted that I successfully can approach my own life in my own way and that all will be really great, if not downright magical as a result?

 

(Emotional) hangover remedy

I ate a snickerdoodle in the bath tonight. That’s just the kind of day it was. The kind of day that demanded my comfort couplet, baths and cookies, never before enjoyed together at the same time. Till tonight. And it was brilliant, like hitting the double dose on a z-pack and feeling better hours later, but faster.

Today was one of those what-the-eff-is-going-on kinds of days that spawn an insufferable emotional hangover, marked by a slight head throb and dewy, reddish puffs for eyes the next day. And so, at the end of today, I took the baggie containing the last remaining generous-neighbor-baked cookie up to the bath. I got in, let the hotness lap my travel-tired body and I ate that snickerdoodle.

I emerged from the bath a little lighter. Then I sat for a while, wrapped in a towel. And then Brian came upstairs to say the magical, healing words, “Babe, I’m so sorry…”

I’ll still have the hangover tomorrow, but the emotion got its remedy.

The relief helped me recall the conversation I overheard between my two- and four-year-old sons today, which, if I reflect on it deeply enough, might just take the sting out of my tomorrow-eyes as well.

Me: Hey, guys. While we’re waiting for the computer to turn on, tell each other one thing you love about each other. Snuggle in and I’ll be right back.

Charlie: Kip, I love your heart and your love.

Kip: Aw, fanks! Charlie, I wuv your heart and your wuv. And your nose.

(Long pause. Then joyful laughter.)

If you feel so inspired, tell someone what you love about them today. Alternatively, apologize. If applicable, do both. And may you avoid an emotional hangover in the process.

Charlie and Kip are surprisingly receptive to my distraction method while awaiting an afternoon movie in bed. “Tell each other one thing you love about each other,” I suggest. They answer in the blink of an eye.

Surprise! This birthday, I got a sea change.

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Birthday dinners are a really big deal in my family. Growing up, we always had the “family birthday” party, in which my sister and I mainlined Shirley Temples during the cocktail hour while the aunts and uncles drank scotch, and then we all sat around a big table to eat. My mom served everyone my favorite meal, which I ordered weeks in advance as part of the anticipation. Grandma Fogel brought the cake, a gorgeous stack of chocolate cake-and-buttercream layers complete with a dollop of her inimitable frosting flung on top for the birthday girl. Grandma Hughey brought the ice cream, meticulously crafted custard-style deliciousness with a vanilla bean galaxy in every scoop and the perfect consistency of a soft-serve machine. Birthday dinners were bliss.

Moving away from my big, beloved extended family meant reinventing my birthday. For the nine years I’ve spent living outside of Kansas City, I’ve always emphasized the importance of my birthday dinner, and a good cake. Under no small pressure of expectation, Brian has brought home some lovely cakes and devised some beautiful birthday dinners. Other years fall into a darker category. Take, for example, age 27, when we lived in Cabo and I willfully prepared a comfort-food birthday meal and baked my own birthday cake—specifically my recently deceased grandma’s recipe. Just before blowing out the candles, I crumbled into pieces upon noticing there were no aunts, moms, grandmas or sisters to slip their wedding rings over my burning candles in the Fogel-women birthday wish fashion. It was just Brian, a couple dogs, the sound of the sea and lonely little me. When I finally regrouped enough to blow out the candles, my eyes were sunken in a moat of mascara, Brian was flummoxed and my slice of cake tasted like sadness. At that time, and for years after, I defined my birthday by a special meal, the presence of adoring friends or family and, yes, bitchin’ cake and ice cream.

It’s hard to tell without a sample size of birthdays to prove it, but I think things are different now.

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Today is my birthday. I did not have a party. I was not physically surrounded by throngs of friends or family (but high fives of thanks to all those wonderfuls who are with me in spirit.) I changed two poopy diapers, did laundry, got shot and eaten by two pretend-gun-wielding “mean turtles” (aka, Charlie and Kip), emptied and loaded the dishwasher and it rained all day. We had big plans for dinner, though, yes we did. Brian left work early only to get stuck in the traffic of a five-car accident on Lake Shore Drive. I was just finishing prep on the boys’ dinner when he walked in, apologetic, expecting an emotional wife and ready to whisk us off to my favorite Thai restaurant. “It’s ok, Babe,” I said. “Let’s just stay home and eat what we have here—we have lots of good food in the fridge. Really.”

Brian knows the phrase “it’s ok” rarely can be taken literally, but I was sincere. He studied my face and smiled. “No way, we’ll order in, then. It’s your birthday.” I insisted we hold off. He did not trust me. I insisted again. He watched me closely for the next 30 minutes. Just to be safe, I deployed my internal observer to sniff out any signs of martyrdom. My day-of-birth without a special dinner and birthday cake? Could it be that I was ok with this?

Admittedly, I’d been celebrated to excess all weekend, but I’m historically (and super embarrassingly) insatiable about these sorts of things. Friday Brian came home with fragrant lilies. Saturday, we went hiking and returned home to have a music-filled dinner, which Brian finished with a cake he couldn’t bear to leave in our fridge one moment longer, so he stuck some candles in it and endearingly looped his ring over a flame. Sunday morning, the boys watched me figure out how to stand-up paddleboard while they played on the beach. And Sunday night we went on a surprise “family date” at a fancy steakhouse. After a thorough search, my internal observer called back, “All clear!”

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Evidently I was feted to capacity, a possibility I didn’t know existed for an affection-loving Leo girl like me, but there I was, declining my favorite meal, cake and candles in favor of putting the kids to bed and facing Brian on the couch just to chat. Turns out, it was a spectacular way to celebrate. In fact, it brought about the delivery of this year’s best birthday gift: a mini transformation.

I heeded my body: “Do you think we could hold off on rich food for a couple days, love?”

I paid attention to my heart: “Ah, do you feel all that love? What a blessed girl you are.”

I listened to my mind: “What a year. A proper birthday meal is rather inconsequential at this point, wouldn’t you say?”

And, eventually, during meditation, I felt my spirit speak, too: “Welcome to a new year, dear one. Endless blessings.”

It might seem precious in the grand scheme—come on, you’re talking about skipping a restaurant meal when people out there have real problems—but this little act of foregoing a special birthday dinner with intention was big for me. Instead of sticking to old patterns once deemed non-negotiable, I carved a new inner way. And, as I understand it, it takes little chisels to attain our highest design.

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Apparently, special occasions merit photo cards at certain restaurants. Considering I’m rarely organized enough to order prints of anything I snap, I appreciate this.

And now, an affirmation from “Spiritual Marriage,” a talk by Brother Anandamoy, one of my favorite monastics.

Divine Sculptor,

Chisel Thou my life

According to Thy highest design.

-Brother Anandamoy

Fear Factor: Library edition – Part 1

I took Charlie and Kip on their first-ever trip to the library a few weeks ago. At ages three and 22 months, respectively, they’d never before walked into a library, and they emerged radiantly joyful. Oddly, so did I.

I’m always struck at motherhood’s ability to unearth old ideals, test them and unceremoniously derail them. Whereas so many of these soul-tempering journeys into “what I thought I knew for sure” can be vexing and take endless hours of contemplation and internal reconciliation, in today’s case, the revelation was thoroughly delightful.

I’ve always hated, nay, feared, the library. My phobia traces back to the IQ-tastic daughters of my childhood babysitter. They were an unreal kind of book smart. And also, as many kids, they were an unreal kind of mean. My earliest and clearest library memory entails sitting around their dining room table eating bologna sandwiches and raisins (both of which made me gag for many years) after “library day” at our small parochial school. “What book did you return today, Emily?” the sitter asked.

Little House on the Prairie,” I stammered, knowing she and her two girls, one of whom was in my class and watched me like a hawk on library days, would swoop down to bust me. Chapter books were glaringly above my reading level, but I checked them out because I knew that’s what smart kids did; it’s what the sitter’s girls did. We must’ve been six or seven and both girls already had read the entire series. On cue, the mom raised a gloating eyebrow and asked if I read it.

“Yeah. Of course I read it,” I said, terrified. “It’s good.”

“Oh reeeeally?” they all chimed. “What’s it about?”

I couldn’t answer them and, to this day, I haven’t read a single “Little House” book. In fact, my heart still races when I hear the words, “Little House on the Prairie.” It was a painful little-girl moment socked away in my cell memory until today.

As we approached the librarians’ desk to inquire about a library card, I gripped the soft little hands of my own kids and noticed that, instead of basking in the hopeful anticipation of my two book-loving boys, I was looking around for the mocking glares of three smarty-pants meanies and feeling old shame for not living up to their standards. This memory has haunted me, undetected, so much so that, from first grade through college, I had a habit of checking out books with the best intentions, not reading them and not returning them because I literally feared returning unread books to the library. And so, after incurring fines that drove my dad into a flailing tizzy on a regular basis, I ditched the library scene for good. Or at least a good 10 years.

Today I’m delighted to announce that I have my very own library card. I don’t see myself venturing far from the children’s section for a while, which makes sense considering the age at which my book-checking-out development retarded, but I’m refreshingly ecstatic about what the boys and I may find amid the picture books.