In time for the Winter Solstice, let’s all explore my boozy alter ego!

AKA, MEETING MY DARKNESS AT THE DOOR LAUGHING AND INVITING HER IN (Special thanks to Rumi for the alternate title)

We all have many sides. Some are light, some are dark. And that’s that.

Personally, I have Empathetic Emily, Joyful Emily, Compassionate Emily and Deep-Connecting Emily. On the darker end, I’ve got Self-Absorbed Emily, Serious Overthinking Emily, Talky Emily, Worrying Emily, Judgmental Emily and…

Coming soon to a cocktail party near you: Saucy, Unbridled Emily. (Mom and Dad, feel free to discontinue reading here.)

And she's off. Little Miss Life of the Party.

And she’s off. Little Miss Life of the Party.

PART ONE

Boozy alter-ego: Is she light or is she shadow?

Let’s explore this a bit, shall we? Except in the case of very close friends, who have to deal with my complete personality with some frequency, Saucy, Unbridled Emily usually only makes an appearance while cocktailing. So, because she surfaces when I’m in a less conscious state, it follows that she plays for Team Shadow. (Naturally, our Team Light traits are probably fielded by the personality aspects we want everyone to see in the light of day. The ones we can cultivate.)

After reviewing the fuzzy details from a particularly big night for Saucy, Unbridled Emily at a superbly festive cocktail party, and then feeling the aftermath of “Oh, boy. Did I really go there?” I feel called to explore her. After all, she must be trying to tell me something. I’m not done delving on my own yet but, for starters, I *think* she wants me to grow comfier with her and with owning the things she’s about. She wants me to embrace and display my whole self, not just put my socially acceptable “pretties” on display as for company. In case it helps convince you to explore your own version of a shadowy alter ego, Winter Solstice is next week and we could all be taking advantage of the seasonal support to dive into our own darkness. ‘Tis the season for that.

‘Tis also the season for parties and drinks with friends, which means Saucy, Unbridled Emily has been climbing out of the shadows more than usual. She’s very pleased to meet you, by the way. In fact, she finds you riveting. She wants to know all about you, and she has no taste for small talk, so she’s probably going to say some bold things to coax you into sharing some of your own real stuff. If you shock easily, it might be a little uncomfortable at first, but you’ll warm up as you go along and, in the end, you’ll at least have a modestly entertaining conversation.

Linds and Em

Saucy, Unbridled Emily likes to wear sparkly things. She’s loud. She’s flashy. She’ll tell you like it is. And then some.

—PAUSE—

Let’s take this out of the third person because, holy cow, it’s time I own the fact that “she” is actually me. I am Saucy, Unbridled Emily. There. I feel better already. Now let’s give some examples of what you and I might chat about should we find ourselves sharing a couple bottles of bubbles, or something with bourbon in it.

Top 10 conversation topics Saucy, Unbridled Emily is most likely to bring up after her third glass of wine

  1. Why we should either go out dancing or put on some 90s jams and have a dance party right in there in your kitchen. Excuse me, Pandora, can you play “Ain’t Nuthin but a G Thang.”
  2. The clear vision I had of a past life with you. What? You didn’t know I believed in past lives? Oops. I guess we’ve never talked about this before. Yeah…sometimes I have psychic experiences, which sometimes involve visions, which might sometimes involve you. In a good way, though, I promise. It’s totally not as weird as it sounds…
  3. That time I was propositioned by swingers. No, no, no. I hailed a cab long before the catsuit actually came out of the closet.
  4. The metaphysics of Sensory Processing Disorder. Let’s talk about today’s ultra-intuitive kids and the book I’m going to write about them. But first, who needs another drink?
  5. Couples therapy. Mine, that is. Likely as a segue to suggesting you get some, too. Because marriage is hard for everyone, you know? And it’s worth working on. Once you see how normal I am, there’ll be no question therapy is right for you, too. Right?
  6. Outlandish stories about my husband when he was a young, single wild child. Fine. You won’t quit prodding about why he went home early, or why he’s not out with me, so here’s your answer: A.) He’s more of an introvert than I am. Like, by a long shot, B.) He was tired and didn’t want to drink any more and C.) He got his hardcore partying out before we even met. Here, let me tell you about the time he was a ski bum in Aspen in the 80s…
  7. My deep admiration of men, and of women, for all the magic that each of them hold. Hush. No human is hotter or better suited for me than my husband, scout’s honor. But a girl can still enjoy the human form and spirit, especially while she’s drinking like the good sorority girl she was.
  8. The names and personalities of my spirit guides. I know, I know. Crazy town. But the thing is, you have spirit guides, too. Yes, really. Hold on. Lemme see if I can tune into them for you… Maybe? Nope. I’m a little fuzzy right now. But you totally have spirit guides. Ask me about this again when I’m not drinking.
  9. Tales of one or two unconventional relationships from my single days. I mean, didn’t you experiment, too? Oh, you didn’t? Oh, ok. Now this is awkward. I’m gonna get another drink now.
  10. All things TMI. (also, bawdy jokes, prodding questions and a general vulnerability floodlight.) It’s so great getting to know you better. Thanks for opening up so much. I hate small talk, so this conversation is the bomb.

Get a few glasses of wine in me and we’re diving right in. Because, after all, I mean, who likes small talk?

Small talk? I will not have it. This is my serious listeny face. It's a face I might make while you dish up some of your real-life stories. (I can't be sure of this, but I suspect my Oprah's Lifeclass face and my Saucy, Unbridled Emily listening to you talk about real stuff face might look similar.)

Small talk? I will have none of it. This is my intent listening face. I suspect my Oprah studio audience face and my Saucy, Unbridled Emily listening  face might look similar.

PART TWO (Here come the gratuitous selfies)

Let’s explore a little more about how I feel when I look at Saucy, Unbridled Emily. What purpose might she be serving, for example? What am I to learn from this side of myself? (Feel free to apply these questions to your own boozy alter-ego, whomever he or she may be.)

What I like about myself as Saucy, Unbridled Emily:

  • I’m fearless.
  • I laughingly own up to my shortcomings.
  • I brazenly claim the stuff that makes me awesome.

Those all sound like things I might want to apply to my life across the board. However, when I wake up the next day to find a more conscious version of myself is in charge, it still feels a little icky.

What I don’t like about myself as Saucy, Unbridled Emily:

  • I experience a sense of vulnerability from sharing details of my inner life.
  • I feel a sense of shame for losing sight of my normally steadfast commitment to higher consciousness. Simultaneously, I feel concerned that “Nice Girl” and “Good Girl” were nowhere to be found in Saucy, Unbridled Emily’s spotlight.
  • I’m embarrassed about certain parts of myself. Like, the fact that I turn into a loudmouth hedonist when I choose to imbibe.

It’s true. Saucy, Unbridled Emily is a hedonistic, show-offy aspect of my makeup that, somewhere along the road, must have been deemed frivolous and indulgent and inappropriate and dirty and naughty and not allowed and therefore stuffed into the darkness only to emerge when my tight controls were compromised. Around that time, “Nice Girl” and “Good Girl” began their salad days, gradually evolving into deft oppressors of Saucy, Unbridled Emily, and other shadow sides. See, look how socially appropriate I can be. But, as we know, when you push something down, it’s going to keep coming up until–

See? There she is!

See? There she is! No more hiding. This moment just calls for a selfie, don’t you think? (Admittedly, this pic is rather chastely inspired, as I sent it to Brian because I was appreciative of the fact he’d made me breakfast that morning. Lest anyone think I’m into sexting. It’d surely take a lot more drinks for me to go there.)

Boom! It’s so obvious! You can’t turn away from it, girl. Look at it, look at it, look at it…

Aw, man. Throughout my adult life, I’ve been using occasional big-drinking nights to silence “Nice Girl”* and “Good Girl”* so that saucier sides might emerge.

*I use scare quotes here because what the deuce do “nice” and “good” even mean? The expectation to be “nice” and “good” is woven into many a woman’s inner fabric, still without clear definition, I might add.

Hear this, Socially Appropriate Emily:  Saucy, Unbridled Emily refuses to be pushed down any longer.

These shadow sides of ourselves, whatever they look like to you, want to, need to surface. And there are two ways they can come out:

  1. Getting yourself chemically uninhibited or otherwise “weakened”
  2. Asking for it.

I’ll be darned if I haven’t repeatedly done both of those things this holiday season. One, alcohol. Two, prayer:

“God, please help me to discover and understand all that stuff I’ve pushed down over the years because I somehow decided it’s not fit for human consumption. Yep, I want to see that stuff, and I want to embrace it. I know it’s in there because I can feel it prickle me sometimes. I want to understand it. I want it to not be so scary and powerful anymore. And, whatever it is, I want to integrate it into my everyday persona. I want you to shine some light on it and make it visible so that I can move beyond and be bigger and better for you. Cool?”

PART THREE

I find a lot of people who don’t want to know what’s lingering there in the dark. It’s terrifying. It’s deep down there for a reason—not going to bring it up. Don’t even go there. What would happen?

I’ll tell you what can happen when you “go there.”

Just Saturday morning, after a very back-bendy yoga class with a friend, I found myself standing on the curb in the noonday light crying in her arms. Our casual after-class conversation got real when a truth from the darkest corner of my shadow came rolling off my tongue. I was safe with her, but this part of me was painful to release, because it was not at all in line with who I’ve long thought I’m supposed to be in order to be “good” and “nice.”

I showed her my darkness. After she beamed her own warming, understanding light directly onto my patch of spiky, neglected shadow, do you know what she did? She thanked me. She said my vulnerability was a gift to our friendship, and she wrote me: “Know that there is no judgment, only compassion and empathy.” I felt a kind of emotional freedom I never imagined. She then sent me the Rumi poem that follows.

In one very well-timed, no doubt divinely orchestrated conversation with a true and wise friend, all my tremendous fear of these darker aspects of myself softened into curiosity, even compassion. I’m still figuring things out, but I can see a faint glimmer of how I’ll feel and who I’ll be once I’ve completed the process of observing, embracing and integrating my various shadows into the me everyone sees. It’s hard to describe, but this future vision is so comforting, so surprisingly empowering.

In any event, for the time being, Saucy, Unbridled Emily, (and all the other shadow aspects of myself) I bid you a warm welcome to the Guest House.

The Guest House

By Jelaluddin Rumi
Translation by Coleman Barks

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Charlie put this sticker on my throat once because he said it would help my fifth chakra get stronger. Sure enough, blue is the color of the throat chakra, which is all about self expression and sharing your truth. I think it's pretty appropriate for where I am right now. Figuring out how to be me. All of me, all the time.

Charlie put this sticker on my throat once because he said it would help my throat chakra get stronger. Sure enough, blue is the color of the fifth chakra, which is all about self expression and sharing your truth. I think remembering this sticker is pretty appropriate for where I am right now. Figuring out how to be me, how to express my true self, all the time.

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What’s in your internal box office? I try giving it up to God and get huffy when it doesn’t go MY way.

My husband has a great expression he uses to explain the conservation of energy for the things you really want to do. “Fun tickets.”

Basically, he says, you’ve got a finite amount of energy, aka fun tickets, to use in a day, so you can choose either to use them up all at once, or conserve them for later.

It goes back to his days when he summered as a roughneck on drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico in order to winter in Aspen as a ski bum. It was the early 1980s, where, if you felt like it, you could dance all night beside a glass coffee table laden with overflowing ashtrays of white powder. However, if the other kind of white powder was falling, he forewent the Don Henley lifestyle and went to bed early to make sure he had enough fun tickets for the mountain. After all, even as a young buck, you only have so many fun tickets in a 24-hour period. You can borrow from the next day’s stash, but you have fewer to work with once the sun rises. Reliably, being the first one down the hill on a fresh powder morning was his preferred buzz.

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(photo caption) This is my man back in the 1980s and 1990s, when he cashed in a lot of fun tickets. Back then, he was known by his initials, BQ. His Copper Mountain employee ID is cool, but the real gem is that guy in the teeny shorts, presumably just after he moved to Maui. There’s no shortage of shirtless-BQ-with-fish pics and feather-haired-BQ-embracing-gleaming-feather-haired-woman pics in the big black bag where he keeps his photos. Gotta love a man with a rich tapestry. I know I sure do.

Are there other kinds of tickets?

If homemaking and motherhood have anything at all in common with recreational drug use in the eighties and life as a ski bum circa Hot Tub Time Machine, it’s that your body only has a limited number of fun tickets available.

Same goes for perfection tickets and nice tickets, among a legion of others in our internal box office. If you’ve ever run out of nice, you know what I mean.

Let’s extend this ticket metaphor to the topic of preparing for a home appraisal, which my former ski bum and I have been doing this week, in which case you might discuss “meticulous” tickets.

I am plumb out of them.

Just ask the Universe

Earlier this week Kip came home with one of those rainbow loom bracelets all the kids are into these days. If you’re not as hip as I am, these colorful bracelets are made of a million tiny rubber bands looped together in a formation similar to the shape the old jelly bracelets once took on when I forced them into my mouth to pretend they were a retainer. At least here in Chicago, it’s a wrist-side sensation among the elementary set. Kip’s little buddy made one for him, which filled his heart with joy. And made Charlie cry. “I want one of those bracelets…” he immediately whined, lips contorted into that about-to-wail face.

“Ok, buddy. Well, first, it’d be really nice if you told Kip that you like his bracelet and that you’re happy for him he got one from his friend,” I explained over his sobs. “Next, why don’t you just tell God and the Universe you’d like to have one of these bracelets? And open yourself up to the possibility that one of your pals may make you one.”

“Oookay, Mommy,” Charlie sniffed. “Universe, I would really like to have one of those bracelets.”

The appraisal

The next day, yesterday, we had our home appraised, very hopefully at that, for a potential refinancing that, by our calculations, would’ve made everything awesome. So, a few days before, we got busy. Sprucing up paint, hanging hooks, cleaning the back yard. We don’t have house cleaners (chief among my WASP-y woes) so we pooled our respective resources of meticulousness and turned our house into a museum for a day. (for some magical people, the museum house is life. For me, it’s no-effing-way-could-i-do-this-everyday-and-still-get-enough-sleep-to-do-it-again-the-next-day.)

Banking on the first-impression factor, we even washed, dried, folded and put away ALL the laundry in our house, a feat never before achieved. It was a lot of work. We were manic. No home of two kids, three dogs, one untidy man and his right-brained wife was ever so sparkling.

Ok, I understand that an appraisal is different from a realtor’s showing, for which you’re required to make would-be homebuyers believe you live in a catalog (click here to treat yoself to my favorite ironic website of all time, Catalog Living), but we wanted everything to look nice nonetheless. You know, like we take care of our stuff, which we do, but if you walked in on an average Tuesday afternoon, it might not be apparent. I even sent the appraiser off with some homemade granola for his family. So gracious I am. It’s the little things, you know?

I don’t have to tell you we didn’t get the loan. The appraisal came in way under what we needed, as a result, per our real estate agent, of faulty comps the appraiser pulled from the neighborhood. My numbers-genie of a husband, our heroic real estate agent and our family CFO (read: deft financial advisor) are on the case for a rebut. Me? I’m sitting here thinking, “But I thought… Damn. And I gave that guy some of my granola. What is up, Universe?”

Rainbow loom of abundance

Not 10 minutes before I received the email of our unfortunate appraisal, on the walk to the car after picking Charlie up from school, Kip’s little buddy silently removed all the bracelets from one of his wrists and handed them to Charlie. Not a peep from Kip’s friend, His Blond-Locked Highness of Three-Year-Old Generosity. Just a humongous smile as he handed them over. How did he know? Charlie was joyfully incredulous. As he put them on his own wrists, he looked like Scrooge MacDuck swimming in gold coins at the beginning of Duck Tales. (Forgive me. These bracelets really take me back to the nineties.)

Walking to the car, I reminded Charlie of our last conversation about these bracelets and his face shone with 10,000 candles. “Oh yeeeeah,” he grinned. “Wow. Thank you, Universe.”

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(photo caption) After coming home, Charlie pronounced the bracelets “itchy” and placed them just so beside the Halloween cat on our front hall chest.

Falling from Cloud 9

I was on such a high. Following the uncanny answer to Johnny’s prayers for a bracelet and an awakening session with my energy healer Monday, I was more faithful in miracles and the magic of the Universe than I had been in a while.

So it was interesting to observe how the news of the appraisal brought my vibration way down.

In an attempt to recover the high, the boys and I baked cookies. I suppose I could’ve turned on the TV to distract the kids while I snuck away to meditate or journal, but baking brings about an instant, affirming comfort. It makes me feel motherly, generous, cozy and safe. Baking also gives me something I can control. Mix this. Stir that. Bake this. Eat that. In the face of uncertainty on our home loan and confusion over why it didn’t work out as I’d planned, I wanted to feel like I was directing something.

These cookies are the bomb. (Thank you, back of the Trader Joe's oats package.) But what's really crazy cool is what time it was when I took this photo. If you know a thing or two about angel communication, this 4:44 was one timely and welcome reminder to me in the midst of my appraisal tailspin.

These cookies are the bomb. (Thank you, back of the Trader Joe’s oats package.) But what’s really crazy cool is what time it was when I took this photo. If you’ve studied any numerology or angel communication, this 4:44 was one timely and welcome reminder to me in the midst of my appraisal tailspin.

Oh, but how many times do I have to be reminded that I’m no director? I accept the title of co-creator of my life, but not director. As co-creator with the Universe, I’m the “idea guy.” I come up with a vision and walk in my desired direction. God is the one who brings my dreams about in ways that far surpass what I ever could have envisioned or executed.

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(photo caption) For example, what human could ever fathom the task list that starts with the above event, progresses to childbirth and culminates in a living, breathing, sperm-and-egg drawing human being who decides casually to make this fancy little picture while coloring quietly on the floor at your friend’s cocktail party?

Have you ever experienced this sort of magic in your own life?

Most of the time, God and the Universe, which are synonyms in my mind, have much grander plans for us than we have for ourselves. And God, masterful fixer that He is, knows how to make stuff happen in ways we can’t even imagine.

This is no time for sulking. I turned it over to God long before I gave that guy the jar of granola. Who knows what’s at play? All I know—because I have faith in this truth—is that all is as it should be. All will unfold just as it’s supposed to.

And now I may be out of meticulous tickets, but if I check my stash, I have a refreshed supply of faith tickets and I think I still have some fun tickets left. Just in time for the weekend.

Happy Friday, all!

Enoughness Project Series #11: One art exhibit shifts my worldview: perfection rejection

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…

I love art. I have no fancy credentials to prove how much I love it—all I have is a cool garage door and a messy house. I don’t spend every weekend at ballets and shows, go out of my way to catch exhibits and I’m not tight with any important gallery owners or artists (unless you count my sister-in-law, who’s working on an incredible project on the Hudson River right now). Nonetheless, art is the thing that sparks me more reliably than almost anything.

Last spring, I had 36 hours alone in my city. It was the most indulgent of luxuries. I strolled Michigan Ave.; emerged with what is now my favorite pair of jeans; sipped champagne with some dashing Viennese businessmen; declined their generous invitation to dinner in favor of room service, a bath and an uninterrupted night of sleep; and, the next morning, walked straight to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) for some time alone with art I’d never met.

I walked through a torn paper archway reminiscent of a Texas high school football run-through sign, which is, in effect, what it was, but constructed of heavy golden paper ripped in artful swaths by Saburo Murakami, one of the leaders of the Japanese Gutai art movement following World War II. My inner zing was going off.

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“Entrance,” by Saburo Murakami

The exhibit was called “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962” and I felt the swell of liberation immediately on walking through Murakami’s Entrance. The swell turned rogue wave when I saw the calculated slashes and stabs with which Lucio Fontana gutted his paintings. And when I saw the film of Gutai artists blaspheming Japanese culture by painting with their bare feet, I was profoundly engaged.

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“Spatial Concept,” by Lucio Fontana

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Lucio Fontana

As I saw it, many of these artists either created their work in a fashion that was not at all acceptable in the art world at the time, or they first created a perfectly good painting on a regular canvas and then proceeded to beat the hell out of it.

One of the artists wrote that he sat back and watched the painting until the energy rose inside of him and he flung his body at the canvas. The result was total physical destruction of his canvas.

As I sat contemplating the work and listening to a music student figure out Chopin’s Nocturne in something or other, I realized what it was about the exhibit that struck such a chord:  a.) It reminded me of what meditation does to a person, of how it torches old sides of yourself you no longer need and slices through what seems to be just fine, making it something more authentic, something that may be dissonant with others’ expectations, and yet more unique and more powerful than before. Also, b.) I want the courage to approach my life like these artists so boldly approached their canvases.

Who’s with me?

They were deemed madmen at the time, taking the sanctity of a proper painting and precisely burning, splashing, shooting and gashing it. And, yet, the work didn’t feel violent and angry to me; it felt liberating, even playful. Staring at this art, I recognized within me the desire to transform the canvas of my life, to take a traditional form and turn it into something totally my own, something that may make me look like a heretic, but who the fuck cares? It’s the real me, and I’m enough, and it feels freaking unreal and, by the way, you should try it because, trust me, you want to feel as free and electric as this…

Granted, the art in this exhibit was in response to the horrors of WWII, so it’s misguided to compare my charmed American Gen-X/Y life to that of these artists in 1940s and 1950s Europe and Japan, but just as these artists were reacting against the ways of the world that spawned a global war at the time, perhaps my desire to de- and re-construct my life canvas is in response to the perfectionism that’s expected of all of us in this Facebook-i-cized American culture right now. Look perfect, shop perfect, cook perfect, parent perfect, decorate perfect, be married perfect, clean perfect, work perfect, impress perfect, be perfect. It’s not piles of burning books in Nazi Germany, or worse, but this beckoning to live perfectly, and publicly so, can be decidedly oppressive.

Have you checked Pinterest lately, or scoured Facebook till you uncovered enough images to confirm your own lacking? Or made haste to upload a pic of yourself looking fab and doing something awesome to show everyone–including yourself–that you’re really totally supercool and your life is amazing? Oppressive.

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I’m shamefully guilty of feeding the perfection machine. I was all, “I kinda like this pic of myself flanked by two super handsome, well-dressed friends, so I’m totally posting this.” And, yes, I did post this pic to FB a few weeks ago. My caption: “Pretty delighted to have gotten to hang out with these cats last night.” All nonchalant, like, this is what I do all the time. This is how I always dress. And I attend fabulous events every Saturday night. You don’t? Aw, sorry to hear that.

By all appearances, I have created a lovely canvas—a beautiful family, a warm home, wild little boys, a vibrant spiritual life, part-time work that nourishes me, relationships that enrich me, and this blog—and, yes, I’m very grateful for that. Yet I reject the compulsion to make the world think that it’s all easy and precious and perfect. I feel this desire to go beyond what appears to be a perfectly good creation. I want to resist the pull to seem perfect, to “destroy” (my synonyms: transform, personalize, authenticate) the picture and to make it breathtaking from the inside—rather than curating an outwardly appealing portrait. What if my picture could be bombastically evocative of the reality of and the stunning beauty of imperfection?

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In reality, this is what most of my Saturday nights look like: Striving for some semblance of a grown-up night out with my husband, so we hit up a neighborhood dive restaurant, where we try with all our might to make the three-year-old sit quietly in his chair like a gentleman while my five-year-old seizes the window of my distraction to grab my olive wand and create tidal waves of ice in my martini, all while I stifle a grimace. Real life takes place at unflattering angles. And, know what? I didn’t post this to FB, but there’s undeniable beauty in these angles, too.

What if everyone destroyed their picture and made it what they wanted it to be rather than what society expected it to be? What if we were all honest about who we are and what we’re feeling?

Instead of using media like blowtorches, bullets and razor blades, as the artists in the MCA exhibit, I could use my budding indifference to society’s expectations, a bright inner knowing and unfailing trust in God’s way of providing for me as my tools. What would be your tools, or your artistic media?

Will you join me in destroying your picture? Because I could use a community in this adventure. Will you join me in approaching your life with the same fearlessness, expressiveness and willingness to test your own boundaries that these artists explored with their work?

The final product won’t end up in a museum touted as important art—or even on Pinterest—but living with abandon will darn well enrich my life and, because I will be more my authentic, empowered, liberated self, my loved ones will benefit as well.

I’m in. You?

Farewell, summer. And, all hail the benevolent Mark Wahlberg. (Spoiler alert: This is about healing my inner teenager.)

Since June, I’ve been calling this “The Summer of the Golden Tan.” My golden tan.

I shed my cover-up at the beach, caught morning vitamin D on as much of my body as a tankini allows and admired the gilded shade of my legs every time I stretched out on a picnic blanket. Which was a lot. It’s true:  I have a phenomenal tan this summer. Not too much, not too little. Very summery. Mission, like, totally accomplished.

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Who can argue with that golden tan?

Summer is now over. Beginning this week, both my boys are in school, one for three hours and one is there all day long, and in the time I have to myself, I’m left to carry out my freelance work and, hopefully, attend regular yoga classes, all without having to pay a babysitter for the time. Money saved!

I’m already missing the Summer of the Golden Tan. But off I go into autumn, like everyone else.

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First day of school

What’s that, Mark Wahlberg? You like my tan, too?

One day after preschool I took my littlest to the set of Transformers 4, which was filming less than two miles from our house. I figured on seeing some Hollywood mass destruction, which Kip would love, and I hoped I’d catch a glimpse of Mark Wahlberg, whom I’ve appreciated for various reasons since I was a teenager. I was in a hurry to pick up Kip from school, so I wore my clothes from a yoga class two hours earlier. If you know me, you know how I’ve struggled with various aspects of my physique (see here), and I try to avoid public displays of tight clothing because I think I look like a Hot Doug’s special sausage in stretchy stuff.

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Here, the Hot Doug’s specials menu. I went with the smoked Texas pork hot link. Obviously.

With that context, the hot yoga getup fit me a lot closer than usual and, moments after parking the car, I regretted that. Why? Because I was about to stroll past Mark Wahlberg and there was no hiding.

Mark Wahlberg was sitting on a bucket a few feet away from us just hanging out between takes. I looked over, pulled my stomach as tight as she goes, smiled at him and reached for Kip’s hand. He looked at Kip and smiled just a quarter twinge, then he looked at me and squinted. And he squinted at me again. And again.

Inside my head: Wait a minute. Is he looking at me? Nope, Kellie and the kids are over there, Kip and I are right here, there’s no one else next to me, so, ok, this is happening. I’m having extended eye contact with Marky Mark. Wow. He really is a handsome man. Well, duh, but he’s rocking some enormous depth in his eyes and a very still, very masculine energy. Even awesomer than I expected. Hmm. He kinda reminds me of Brian. That’s hot. They have the same energy, same shoulders. Wait, he’s still looking at me. Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh.

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One of our summer adventures was to have a picnic in Millennium Park while the symphony played. Also, we attempted yet another photo of ourselves in Cloudgate. I do like Mark Wahlberg, but I’ll take this guy’s shoulders any day. (here’s hoping neither Mark Wahlberg nor my husband mind my objectifying them a little bit.)

He was probably was thinking, “That’s a cute kid. Look at his mom. Whoa, what’s with the tight top? Why is she smiling? Wait—she looks like someone I know…yeah, yeah, yeah. A fat Mary Louise Parker. MLP has an amazon twin in Chicago.”

But *maybe* he was thinking, “I’m sooo tired of filming with Megan Fox. If I have to look at that girl one more time—hey, that’s a cute kid. Wait, look at his mom. Yep, that’s one stunningly beautiful woman. I think I’m going to watch her walk away now because she’s just that lovely.”

I’m not always telepathic, so it was hard to tell. He was squinting. Expressionless. And it all took place in about 20 seconds. But when a man’s eyes do the face-legs-face-torso-face-nod course, it’s usually not out of disgust, right? And, frankly, it doesn’t really matter because, hey, Mark Wahlberg didn’t ignore me as I walked by and that feels like an honor. The rest is just details. I’m going to go with calling it a respectful double-take. Because that’s what I need right now. Victory!

It was a couple minutes after I half-loud-whispered, half-bursted to my friend that I noticed it was not my 34-year-old self talking: “Kellie!!! I will only say this out loud one time, and don’t tell anyone I said it, but I think Marky Mark just checked me out. Oh my gosh!!!”

What adult says “checked me out”?

The euphoric chick making eye contact with a movie star was not the grown-woman Emily with the husband whose biceps are naturally as magnificent as Mark Wahlberg’s (seriously). I had jumped time zones and landed right in my teen years.

Which explains my dive into external personal validation, an otherwise adolescent pattern of thought, and one I work to avoid. Quite simply, I was channeling my inner teenager. And she was super excited.

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This is Kellie and me at the New Kids on the Block concert this summer. Can you see my inner teen in this photo? Huge shout-out to the Wahlberg boys for making my summer awesome.

The Summer of my Adolescent Do-Over?

On second thought, I’ve been lingering with my inner teenager a lot this summer*. This summer has been about great tans and lighter hair, boy band concerts and ice cream nightcaps. I even got surprised by the arrival of my period—twice—in the most nightmarish ways a teen girl could dread: at the pool, and in white jeans. (handled it. no humiliation involved.)

Perhaps I should rename this “The Summer of my Adolescent Do-Over.” At the onset of warmer temperatures, it was like I grabbed my very serious, goal-oriented, unimaginably driven, shame-drenched 13- to 15-year-old self by the hand and said, “You’re coming with me, honey, and we’re gonna have some fun.”

It makes sense. My inner teen has needed some TLC for a long time. Being a teenager is hard on everyone, and there are specific things with which we all remember struggling. For me, I never learned the promise of my own vastness, how to not feel shame about my darkness or imperfections, or that being pretty enough to get the attention of a man—let alone a handsome one—wasn’t the most important factor in my self-worth.

Fast forward to the present day. I am more acquainted with my vastness, my darkness, my drives and, yes, my beauty, subjective though it may be. As with most 30-something women—wow, the thirties are potent—I’m in a wiser, more magnanimous place, largely owed to all the work I’ve done and am doing to understand myself and to make the all-important journey toward love.

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More evidence I was channeling my 15-year-old self: I picked myself up some sunglasses, which, as it turns out are probably better fit for a teenager. I later realized I’d found them in the juniors department. Also, note the blonde in my hair. That’s not natural. Now that I’m back in the present, I went ahead and dyed my hair back to its dark self.

Not being ignored + eye contact with a movie star = triumph for my inner teen

The sheer act of not being ignored by one of Hollywood’s finest worked like a wonder drug for my enduring 15-year-old self-image. Instantly. With one mindless double-take, Mark Wahlberg told me I was noticeable, maybe worth regarding. Do you know what a thoughtless nod from a megastar does for a girl who’s stuck in her adolescent belief that she has nothing to offer in the looks department? Grand shifting.

Basically, Mark Wahlberg looked right at my imperfect body in tight clothing and didn’t turn away. (Yeah, my standard for validation is what it is. I know how utterly ridiculous this all sounds. But it just is.) His simple, most likely unconscious gaze zoomed right through some inexplicable wormhole and touched an earlier version of myself that felt like she was not enough, not a viable woman, because she was never going to be movie-star skinny or movie-star pretty. The result of being noticed by His Benevolent Funkiness is that my inner teen was able to drift peacefully to the dimension where she belongs, allowing me to stand stronger in my own present-day self. Euphoria.

Picking up the kids

For people who’ve ever experienced a healing of their inner child, cheesy as it sounds, it’s the real-ass deal.

Time isn’t on a continuum as we often think. It all exists at once, on varying dimensions. So it’s much easier to slip back into a childish pattern than we think. (Not to worry! If you have awareness, it’s just as easy to pull yourself back into the present. Well, not easy, but very do-able with practice.)

My brilliant friend is writing a book about healing from sexual trauma and she has a chapter called “Picking up the kids.” As she described it to me, anyone who’s ever experienced trauma in childhood or young adulthood has to go back and pick up the kids, or the younger versions of ourselves, and bring them home with us to take care of them. (Aside: It doesn’t apply only to victims of sexual trauma. Picking up the kids has a much broader application, as you can see from my own experience in this post.) Once we do gather up the kids, we can love them and help ourselves heal in the past so that we can thrive in the present. Because when a kid hasn’t gotten what he/she needs before growing into the next phase of life, that kid remains in state of need, and it won’t settle down until those needs are met.

For me, this summer, my inner teenager whispered to my spirit that she desperately needed to cut loose, have some carefree fun, frolic at the beach, dance without caring what she looked like, sleep in as often as possible, squeal at a concert, stalk a movie set, drink in the unconditional love of a hot guy (grown-up Emily’s husband) and eat a ton of ice cream.

And, you know what? She feels so much better now.

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After Brian left for work and the kids had figured out how to turn on the TV downstairs, Ralph was my cherished late-morning snuggle buddy. Who wouldn’t feel better after cozying up to this? I always wanted to sleep with a dog when I was a kid. Living the dream.

In paying attention to and caring for that inner child, whatever age she is, you heal him or her. And once that child is healed, you can step more fully into who you truly are, who you’re meant to be. You can step into your power.

Visualizing the healing

Here’s how this healing of your inner child may look, metaphysically speaking, or how you might visualize your own healing: The teenage version of myself, which I can picture in my mind’s eye, becomes surrounded in gold light, which radiates from her heart center and consumes her entire body until she joyfully dissolves in a sprinkling, twinkling of radiant light. This is how I believe it works when you heal younger versions of yourself. You give your inner child the medicine he/she needs, you both become consumed with light, the child rests and you are stronger in your present.

Before floating away with a big smile on her light-filled face, my inner teenager asked one thing of grown-up me: Please stop being mean to yourself about your looks, and please stop being so consumed with the features you lack. You are vast, powerful and beautiful, and you always have been. Marky Mark thinks so, too. <squeal!>

Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh!

*Sidebar

My teen summer divulged:

–       I got blonde highlights for the first time in my life last spring. It wasn’t me. Last week, I joyfully dyed it back to my natural color.

–       I rocked out at my first-ever New Kids on the Block concert, precisely 23 years after my parents refused my pleading to attend with a friend and her mom.

–       On more than one occasion, after a dinner with girlfriends, we headed to an ice cream parlor for sundaes instead of to a bar for cocktails.

– I taught the boys how to turn on the TV and find PBS Kids so that I could stay in bed till, sometimes, 8 a.m. It was pure luxury.

#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.

 

Get to juking, Chicago. Pride Week is upon you.

This weekend begins the 44th Annual Chicago Pride Week. As such, I would like to come out in support of my queer pals, and offer up a devastatingly vivid visual of this mama letting it all hang out at a big, gay dance party a few weekends ago.

How long has it been since you’ve danced with reckless abandon? Your own hands weaving through your hair like the fingers of a lover lifting the locks off your neck at 1 a.m. when the music is so loud and you’ve been dancing for hours and the new air on the skin of your nape feels like heaven.

A particular sense of freedom rises, uncaged after God knows how long. And you’re picking up the beat or the melody, or sometimes both, and moving without once worrying what everyone in the club thinks of you. You don’t even pause to consider what you look like, who sees you or whether you actually have any business dancing like no one’s watching, because you magically feel unconcerned that your body wasn’t built for music videos, and you can’t wipe the smile off your face. Your hips shake, your head tilts back and a hand laces in yours, pulls you in close, chest to chest and now you’re face to face.

I’m going to take you away. Just escape into the music. DJ let it play…

You haven’t felt this way in public in…maybe not ever. It’s ecstatic without X, drunk without drunkenness, sexy without sex. You laugh. And then you break it the hell down with the warm body pressed up against yours like you’re on Soul Train. No, more like Save the Last Dance, but the imaginary version starring a straight girl and her gay male friends.

You learn a new word, “juking,” and you’re not sure what it means, but you are pretty sure you’re nailing it. You find out later juking* is “A frequently used word by the Chicago urban scene meaning to dance, party, get crunk, get buck, get loose, and just simply have fun,” and you know you that’s what you did.

This is not how you spend most Saturday nights, not anymore. Usually you’re snuggled in the hammock with your husband after putting the kids to bed. Sometimes you’re out to dinner for a girlfriend’s birthday. Sometimes you’re already asleep. But Saturday night is rarely about unleashing your best attempt at Shakira hips, unless in front of your dining room mirror, and, if you do happen to be out dancing with actual people in public, it’s never to a gay bar because you’ve had too many wonderful friends mention they’re not fond of the bachelorettes who storm into the only place some gay people feel comfortable publicly revealing their sexuality with penis necklaces and cameras as though they’re visiting the circus. “I’m not your clown,” comments one of your friends. So, with respect as your intention, you stay away from Boystown and Andersonville’s dancey bars. You let your gay friends and their gay friends have their space, knowing that, as a heterosexual person, comparatively, the whole world is your space.

But these generous men talk you into joining them one night, this night, and you don’t feel like you’re dressed for a night out in white shorts and a top you’ve had for ages, but you throw on some heels and go anyway. You talk, you laugh, you dance together, the world slips away with the spinning DJ, you get told you’re gorgeous approximately 105 times by people who want nothing from you, no one so much as looks at you with disrespect and you smile the entire night. You wonder if, you being you, you could experience this kind of euphoria at a regular dance club, and, if you were out with your girlfriends in a typical hetero club, would you be ducking around, trying not to let loose for fear of a.) looking foolish, b.) not being as good a dancer as the glamorous chick in the sequins, or c.) attracting attention inappropriate for a married woman to entertain?

You brush the thought away because you’re here and not there, and your new favorite song is playing. Don’t you worry, don’t you worry, child. See Heaven’s got a plan for you…

You watch one of your friends, a particularly tender soul, fall into conversation with a handsome stranger. And it makes you smile, like, huge, because he really needed someone to just notice him tonight. Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh. See Heaven’s got a plan for you…

Despite all the joy, it’s late and you’re losing steam, so two friends wait with you on the curb to see you safely into a cab. You go home and fall asleep wrapped around your husband with your hand on his heart. You wake a few hours later pinned between your man and your five-year-old, who’s saying, “It’s morning, Mommy.” You tell him you’re super tired because you were out very late dancing in one of those places where grown-ups dance all night long. He responds by saying, with a quivering lip, “You’re making me feel a little jealous, Mommy.”

You know that it was a fluke of a night, and that it’ll be a while before you enjoy another dance party like that one, but you feel the sense of freedom lingering. And you pause to consider whether that freedom was accessible to you before this night, and before the two other nights of your adult life in which dear friends invited you to dance with them amid a sea of some of the free-est-seeming people you’ve ever seen.

But whether it happens again doesn’t really matter.

Your hypercritical inner mean girl got a little bit smaller tonight because your appearance-conscious self was juking without a care in the world. What else is there to say?

…A prayer. Yes. You can say a prayer.

Dear God,

May all queer people of the world feel as free to be their true selves as I felt in the safety of their space. You made us all, and we’re all perfect in your image. Thank you, God.

Amen

Happy Pride Week, Chicago!

*Note: “Juking” may also have a slightly more risqué connotation, and I can assure you what I was doing on that dancefloor didn’t remotely resemble the juking you might find on YouTube. How I’d love to be able to make my body do that.

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Sometimes you can’t even believe how blessed you are to count these guys as your dear ones. They have treated you to innumerable joys, but for context of this blog post, they’ve facilitated two of your life’s best dance parties. And by facilitated, I mean they have made a sandwich out of you for the entirety of “Hungry like the Wolf” and not laughed at your serious efforts to pretend you know how to samba. Here, you prepare to break it down to 80s cover tunes at Midsommarfest.

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.