“I’m very confident in how I look,” she said.

Anthro dressing room

I’ve already admitted to snapping pics of myself (yep.) in dressing room mirrors because the camera lens is more honest than my naked eye, so I figure what’s one more embarrassing selfie on the blog? This way you get to see my new jacket. Note the peacefully coloring kids on the floor. (If they were scarred by the experience, they haven’t rebelled against it yet. Yet.) For the record, I did not get this dress, but I did get the jacket hanging in the background. See you at the next work meeting or girls night, you pretty jacket, you.

Oh my gosh, you guys. I bought myself something really pretty yesterday and it felt so GOOD! I don’t shop much anymore—an honest outcome of my Enoughness Project (see this link for more on that) and the fact that I don’t work an office job—so my jaunt into Anthropologie yesterday was a rare delight.

Aside to Anthropologie: You are so pretty. You smell so nice. Will you be my best friend? Circle Y/N. I love you.

I picked up some dresses off the main floor and did a surgical strike on a gorgeous jacket just my size tucked away among the extra-smalls in the sales room (Oh? You want to keep my sizes in your wallet for the next time you’re in Anthro and see something that reminds you of me? Sure! Just message me and I’ll fill you in.) Magically, stuff fit and I relished all the frocks the lovely shop girls brought to me so I could leave my boys coloring peacefully—peacefully!—on the dressing room floor.

But the best part of my shopping experience was not the amazing jacket I snagged on super-sale for $79.98, or the fact that my sons were not only game for the excursion but also offered gall-darned spot-on style assessments, or the fact that they told me I looked beautiful 16 times even in the dress below, which, let’s face it, wasn’t the best on me. The most magical part of my trip to Anthropologie on Southport was something one of the employees said to me.

Her: You could tuck that shirt in and wear a belt.

Me: Oh no. I don’t think I could. I just don’t like the way I look with shirts tucked in. See, I have a little bit of a tummy and I just feel like, ehhh…

Her: (leaning in) You know, I have a tummy, too, and I used to think that as well.

Me: (nodding agreeably) Right.

Her: But then I started noticing, ‘you know, this actually looks good, if not better, tucked in.’ I think you may want to just try it. You might surprise yourself.

Me: (awkwardly) Oh my gosh, you just said you have a tummy and, to clarify, I wasn’t agreeing with that. I was more just super interested in what you had to say about tucking shirts in.

Her: (smiling) Oh, I understood what you were saying. But I’m very confident in how I look, so it wouldn’t have bothered me if you had meant it the other way.

Me: (borderline speechless) Wow.

How freakin’ cool is that response? You know what? That girl was unmistakeably beautiful, “tummy” and all, but she got downright powerful-pretty with the words that came out of her mouth. Honest-to-God confidence, without a trace of arrogance. It was a beautiful sentence to hear. Let me repeat. When talking about her body, this Anthropologie stylist–not a size 0 runway model–said: “I’m very confident in how I look.”

If I had a Chicks’ Hall of Fame, I would put her in it. She inspired me.

What would happen if, instead of self-deprecating around every corner, we took her approach?

I’m confident in myself.

Your opinion about me doesn’t matter.

My body’s awesome.

I like myself.

I tuck my shirts in.

Anything else I can get for you?

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Enoughness Project #14: Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle

ENOUGHNESS PROJECT. This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I  abstained from frivolous material purchases, focused on accepting all blessings that came my way and practiced gratitude for all that I have. It was liberating. And in so doing, I uncovered a quest for enoughness that went much deeper than buying stuff. So the project continues in a more freeform format. 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 and drives; grow my understanding of when/why I do things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

Like Kip, who's pretending to be a mean porcupine here, swimming used to hold a certain level of intensity for me.

Like Kip, who’s pretending to be a mean porcupine here, swimming used to hold a distinct level of intensity for me.

Remind me again, God, of when I’m going to rise above sense attachments and body consciousness? Just when I think I’m making all this progress in my Enoughness, I hit a speed bump. Make that a lane rope.

The background is that I’m swimming again after nearly two decades off. In short, I wasn’t ever a swimming superstar but, along with plenty of others, I trained like one. Thing is, I hated those long, grueling swim practices. Racing = fun. Workouts = miserable. I banged it out for six hours a day at a point during high school. By the time I hit age 18, I also hit an existential crisis: I can’t do this anymore. I am more than just a swimmer. I am more than my 100 breaststroke time. I am more than my body weight. So I quit the sport and began exploring other stuff.

By “other stuff,” I generally mean parties, sorority life, guys, freedom, study abroad-ness and journalism, the importance of which is reflected here in this devastatingly hot pic of my fellow campus newspaper pals on our last night of production, circa 2000-ish. If you were in college around this time, I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize the Charlie’s Angels pose. We were cool.

Fast-forward 16 years.

I inexplicably find myself in a YMCA pool talking hip rotation and intervals with a charming coach and masters team mate. It’s all going well, I’m having fun, feeling good, my shoulders aren’t revolting, I’m laughing a lot during the practices and I’m enjoying exercise for the first time in eons.

And then, one night, out of nowhere, it occurs to me that my flesh operates like Jello when I push of the wall. Subsequently, because of the way we push off the wall at the start of each set, others can see this gratuitous view. So I switch lanes in an attempt to hide. (It would take too long to explain why this made sense at the time, but just know that my crazy reared its head.)

This type of crazy is not who I am right now, today, at age 34, mom of two, wife to Brian. But pull on a swimsuit, stare at that black line, move through water and, on some level, I’m bound to be transported to another time, another unrelenting version of a younger, supremely unsure Emily.

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Just a little stroll down my swimming memory lane… (photos found in a duffle bag in my parents’ house.)

Clearly, as I immerse myself in swimming again, my old body stuff is surfacing. What’s next? Replacing food with Diet Coke? Not eating for two days before I plan to weigh myself? Throwing up when I feel like I’ve eaten more than I “should”? Well, no, of course not. Unequivocally, none of that is next for me. But the old themes are coming up, so I figure they’re asking to be looked at.

Observing my crazy

It’s interesting to observe how my beliefs about myself shift as soon as I end up half naked in a pool wearing a swim cap and goggles, the uniform of my past. While this new swimming-again thing is insanely fun on the whole, and I love how I feel as a result of my new exercise regimen, I’m noticing a familiar mean voice that comes up when I’m doing something really nice for myself and for my physical body.

My inner mean girl goes for the throat.

Despite my best efforts at being conscious and loving, when the inner mean girl pipes up about my physique, I give into her. If she were ridiculing my spirit, or my mothering, or my whatever else, I’d tell her to sit the hell down. But because she’s talking about my body, I sit back and take it.

My inner mean girl isn’t allowed at yoga class, so I’m kicking her out of swim practice, too.

It’s interesting to note the mean voice was far out of earshot last Saturday when I inexplicably–and ecstatically–worked my way into wall-supported pincha mayurasana in Keely Jones‘ tantric vinyasa class at Yoga Tree Chicago. (Forearm stand is the one pose in all of yoga I’ve always felt was out of my reach.) I almost didn’t believe it when I felt my feet touch the wall behind me as I perched on my forearms. I’ve never felt so confident, free and grateful. I was fully grounded in my present-day self, and fully in contact with my own power. So how can I bring that sense of self, freedom and gratitude into the pool and all other areas of my life? For one, I can ban the inner mean girl from swim practice.

Clearly, like yoga, this sudden swimming-again thing is another opportunity for me to get in touch with my body in a healthy, loving, relaxed way. And so it is decided: Through my twice weekly adventures in the laid-back-est masters team you ever saw, I’m going to move beyond this rash of negative body consciousness even if it means putting my rotator cuffs to the test. Until I can love my body for all the many ways in which it’s awesome, and detach from equating my physical form with my general enoughness, I hereby vow to let my curves jiggle off as many flip turns as it takes.

Paddling off into the sunset–without my inner mean girl.

SIDEBAR: Five ways I could’ve differently handled the impulse to hide my pool-cruising body, had I not instead jumped back into adolescent paranoia.

1.) I could’ve found it within to appreciate the fact that my body isn’t the same as it was when I was 16 and aiming for a Division I scholarship. For example, after bearing two kids, I could choose to be ok with the softness that comes with motherhood for some of us. What’s to hate about softness?

2.) I could’ve acknowledged my discomfort with public swimsuit-ness, put it temporarily on hold and decided to dive into that uneasiness with a nice, long meditation after practice.

3) I could’ve remembered that Marky Mark did not ignore me when I walked past him this summer. (Why did I not think of that? Admittedly, my mental picture of his gaze is not as elevated a tool as examining the true source of my discomfort within. But it’s certainly more fun.)

4) I could have remembered how much my husband loves the very flesh in question and taken refuge in that sweet sense of appreciation rather than fixating on imperfection.

5) I could have just enjoyed the fact that I’m having fun getting exercise in a pool and decided not to care that my un-Olympic curves were on parade.

Enoughness Project Series #13: On fashion shows and swimming again

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If we speak no more of my enoughness after today, let it be remembered that I wore pleather leggings and partied on stage–ON STAGE–at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park with models, fashion designers, fancy Chicagoans and the awesomely luminous Emilee Bond. Through it all, fantastic Emilee at my side, I never once felt like shrinking into the corner for not belonging. That said, I still have some work to do in making this feeling a habit. (right. who am I kidding? of course you’re going to hear more about my enoughness…)

If you’ve been following my Enoughness Project, you know I took three months off from material spending in order to uncover on my own innate enoughness. (see the end of this post for my boilerplate about this.) Rather than buying shiny new things to make me feel like I’m enough—i.e., cool enough for a girls’ night with the momshells, smart enough for a business meeting, tasteful enough for a wedding, yogi enough for a yoga class, organized enough for a playdate, effortless enough for dinner guests, hip enough for x, sexy enough for y, vibrant enough for z—I opted to believe that I was innately enough for all of these things and that I did not need to buy something new in order to make me feel like it.

Mission accomplished. It was a bumpy ride, but since I began the project in April, I definitely do shop and spend less; am more aware of my inner drives where appearances are concerned; buy material items only when they’re premeditated and of great quality (because everyone’s grandma taught them that quality lasts); and am in a reasonably stable habit of stopping myself as soon as the inner mean girl speaks up, replacing her screeching with kinder, truer self-talk. Stuff like, “Emily, remember how awesome you are? The Universe doesn’t care about this other stuff. Just be you. You are enough! Remember?”

All that said, while I’m buying material items again (please note the pleather-accented leggings in the above photo) my journey to a sense of complete enoughness is far from over.

I’m finding new facets to the journey and new ways to push myself beyond my old patterns at every stop on this ride. Let’s talk about two recent trials, which I’ll go ahead and count as Enoughness victories.

I went to a Chicago Fashion Week event and didn’t once tell myself I didn’t belong there. Not even once! This is a major coup. Even bigger, I didn’t freak out about what to wear or compare my body to the models’ bodies. Other related victories: I managed not to text a photo of my outfit to my sister for approval before I left the house, mysteriously made myself at home walking around in four-inch heels, smiled like a loon from the second row throughout the entire show and only felt a little insecure when I shook hands with Lagi Nadeau, my favorite designer from the night. (I mean, who meets Parisian fashion designers? Not me!)

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Bob and Angel take in the Fashion Focus: Taking it to the Streets runway show as part of Chicago Fashion Week. Hot tip: Doc Martens are totally coming back. Along with Pearl Jam, flannel and black pants.

I struggled a bit when Bob tried to snap a couple close ups of me at the after party, which was on the stage at the Pritzker Pavilion. I got flustered with posing for the camera and ended up making really unattractive faces, which I hope were immediately deleted from his phone. “Hmm. You’re tough,” Bob said.

“I know. I just don’t know how to pose for a picture and still be myself. I get so nervous.”

“Be someone else,” he offered. Wait, I actually think I might be incapable of that. In any event, something to consider next time I’m being photographed.

Other than getting my picture taken, which does unnerve me, it was a true miracle that I could go to something like this–and I know how first-world crazy this sounds–feel no anxiety and no drive to be anything other than who I actually am. The only time me being me got awkward was when I struck up a conversation with the fancy-haired guy in the green suit as we walked to the after party. At worst, he was downright bitchy. At best, he was just not interested in making friends.

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Caption: My badass friend, Angel (the hot guy on the right with awesome white hair and cool glasses), invited me to join him and his equally badass partner, Bob (see the handsome strapping guy on the left? That’s Bob.), at a fashion show for Chicago Fashion Week. When you go somewhere with Angel, it’s literally like being the mayor’s arm candy. People wait in line to talk to him. They smile a lot. They touch his biceps like they’re his old friends. (and they probably are.) He introduces me and they don’t care who I am, but they smile warmly because they love him. He is the calmest person I’ve ever met. Never gets excited. Unless there’s amazing food being served. For an extrovert like me, it’s mad fun. I had enough excitement for all three of us. Apparently, I also had a wrinkly shirt. (I feel so grateful to these guys for plumping my social calendar from time to time. Each year I know them, they keep getting more intricate, more fascinating and more magnanimous about including me in their high-cool-factor lives.)

My other big triumph of enoughness? I got into a pool. Yep, I strapped on a suit, a cap and some goggles, and I followed the black line up and down several times like the olden days. Admittedly, it may have been a spectacle because my muscles froze at the 75-yard mark, but I was in that water giving it a go. Exercise is good for me, and running hurts my leggies, so in addition to the new tantric vinyasa class I am LOVING, I think swimming is my thing. But swimming carries some baggage for me. In my head, my swimming skillz used to define me. And it’s absolutely terrifying to be in a swimsuit in front of other swimmers. Particularly as I now rock the mom bod. Also, I’m self-conscious about my face sans makeup. Add raccoon eyes and I’m doubly concerned. Well, friends, I braved it all, and I have the under-eye goggle lines to prove it. What’s more, I had fun, I got to chat a lot with a fun fellow swimmer during practice (stuff I might’ve gotten screamed at for doing when I was 17) and my body completely released all the stress that’d been building. My body is thanking me, too. I think it might be saying, “See? You are enough to try swimming again. It doesn’t have to be scary and you don’t have to be diehard. You have nothing to prove anymore. It can feel good. It might even be fun.”

I’m definitely going to go with fun.

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In the spirit of not just sharing the pretty stuff, here she is, folks. Fresh from the pool. (you can’t expect me to snap a pic of myself in a swimsuit just yet. baby steps.) No makeup, red rings beneath my eyes and I daresay a bit of a glow from doing something good for my body (the glow might also be redness from pool chemicals.) The chlorine and the pool lighting can make a girl look awfully frightful. But I did it anyway. And, know what? That in itself felt pretty amazing.

ENOUGHNESS PROJECT. 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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I don’t always pose for pictures like I’m getting ready to meditate but when I do, I make a nice mudra with my left hand. Feeling grateful to live in such a vibrant city–and grateful I’m getting better at traversing it without fretting about my lack of enoughness.

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?

Enoughness Project Series #10: Old friends, my childhood home and one smiling rockstar

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…

If you allow for pointy corners, my childhood bedroom is shaped like a heart. I just noticed this last week as my children slept soundly on its floor. My bed is somewhere near the right atrium. I was surprised never to have noticed this.

Glow-in-the-dark plastic stars sprinkle the ceiling, as do totally unscientifically placed planets. Jupiter here, Saturn there, Mercury over there, Venus right here, Pluto right over here, etc. I heard about kids who were motivated to recreate actual constellations and astronomically accurate planetary alignment on their ceilings back in the nineties, but the prospect quickened my pulse at the time. And so, to this day, it’s a right-brained solar system of which two recessed floodlights, in the two atriums of the angular heart, are the suns.

While in Kansas, I had dinner with some old friends one night. The magic of time-tested female friends is all-powerful, to be sure, and I reveled in it. We are women now, many of us moms, but these were the girls with whom I belted Madonna into brushes, danced into the night on beer-soaked cement floors, morphed study groups into memories, tried on outfits before a date, cried when my heart hurt and generally started shedding the skin of youth to uncover the woman I would become.

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Strangely, in this Facebook-happy world, I didn’t get a pic of my friends at dinner. But I did snap a few of our kids playing at the pool together the next day.

Old friends are a little bit of magic. When you haven’t seen each other in a while, you gaze at each other in wonder, you drink every word of their life like it’s nectar, you want to know literally everything that’s going on and they want to hear the same—even the ugly stuff. And you share it. You share it all, and you bounce around from person to person, topic to topic, getting almost everything out in soundbites, and receiving instant healing in the salve of a knowing, loving look before being honored with the next revelation of vulnerability from the friend across from you. Or next to you.

We talked a little bit about my Enoughness Project, and about how some of them had taken it on, too. “What was your big takeaway now that it’s all over?” Meg asked.

I’m not sure what I told her, but it wasn’t a complete answer. I’m pretty sure I said it wasn’t over at all. Yes, my moratorium on frivolous spending is technically lifted, and I haven’t gotten back on the shopping horse since, but the enoughness journey is ongoing for me.

I drove home that night with my windows down, the damp Kansas night blowing wisps of hair across my face as I sailed through green lights and past the neighborhood pools into which my girlfriends and I snuck, as teenagers, for late-night swims in our bras and panties. Past the highway I used to take to my grandma’s house in DeSoto. Past the coffee house I patronized as a high school senior to have really complex conversations with really deep people who were, like, so totally real.

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My grandma no longer lives in the sweet little house in DeSoto, Kan. Instead, she lives in a glistening senior living center, where she provided Russel Stover’s chocolate and storytelling to Charlie and Kip, who happened to relish both offerings almost equally. Almost.

My kids played for an hour on the playground where a wondrous blond boy whose memory still warms my heart used to park his Jeep so we could “talk.”

In Kansas, I’m not really sure how old I am. I have to keep looking in the mirror and at my children to remind myself I’m a grown-ass woman. My mind slips into the teenage years and I feel myself thinking of friends and family and boyfriends, slipping into patterns of a bygone era. If I’d never left my hometown, perhaps all these memories and such wouldn’t rush back with such clarity. If I’d come of adult age in suburban Kansas, perhaps this place would have grown up with me, taken on new memories, forgotten the old ones, not stayed 16 forever, not compelled me to feel hopeful every time I cruise 119th Street.

I can almost see Amber rolling up with a diet coke between her knees and bare feet on the pedals to take me to swim practice, or Kristen blaring “Anna Begins;” or Ryan careering up Nall Ave with metal blasting from his open t-tops; or Sam sitting at my parents’ kitchen stools asking questions that made me hysterical with love and laughter.

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If you were a young girl when I was a young girl, there is nothing–nothing–like sleeping in pink foam rollers to transport you back to your youth. (Aside: I took this pic to send to my sister that night but, embarrassing as it is, it is too germane not to post here.)

The boys and I left a day early to drive home. It was time to get back to our real life. It was a gorgeous day of blue skies, low-hanging cotton-ball clouds, millions of purple wildflower blossoms along the shoulder and enough sun to cast every farmer’s field in the richest of green. The highway was uncluttered, we mixed local radio stations with trusted ipod playlists, we talked a lot and we did our darnedest on a few occasions to pretend our car was a dance club.

Not too long after crossing the border into Illinois, probably a little more than half way into the 9-hour drive, Charlie announced he had to poop. We pulled over to gas up and find a potty. Two pumps down was a big, shiny, very fancy looking black van with a shimmery black trailer behind it. Two men walked toward the vehicle. One had long hair, steely eyes and one of those t-shirts that looks intentionally shabby but costs $75. The other was a meticulously groomed fellow, pristine in an all black getup that included a man-tank, tight jeans, a studded belt and well-shined boots.

“Hmm,” I said to the boys. “These guys look like musicians, don’t they? I wonder if they’re playing Chicago tonight.”

We rushed inside toward the bathroom and four additional guys—all skinny, all wearing nice clothes and a disproportionate number of statement rings per hand, all averting glances of other patrons and all sporting both overtly crafted rocker looks and cooler-than-thou airs—hovered at the register.

Three options: 1. They just happened to be regular guys from LA, 2. They were a highly contrived band of buddies hoping to get backstage at Lolla, or. 3. They were real-life rockstars. (For purposes of this story, let’s assume #3.)

Carrying Kip in one arm and leading Charlie by the hand, we walked briskly toward the back of the convenience store.

“Oh, Mommy,” Charlie called to me as though I were across a ravine. “I love you.”

“Yep, Mommy, I wiwy wuv you, too,” Kip echoed, also very loudly. “Dis is such a fun wode twip.”

We were almost to the bathrooms when Charlie made his next pronouncement. “Mommy? I really, really have to go poop!” he said, with plenty of feeling. I laughed out loud. “Mommy, can I go in the men’s room all by myself? I’m getting to be such a big kid. Or…maaaaaybe I can at least have my own stall in the girls bathroom? I can’t wait to get in there and go poop. I’ll feel so much better!”

Totally tickled and chuckling to myself, I happened to glance to my right and notice one of the rockers, in his smart little fedora and pointy boots, approaching down a perpendicular aisle, looking dead at me with an enormous grin on his face. He’d heard everything. Without a thought, I flashed him the biggest, happiest, flirtiest, most enchanting smile in my arsenal. I squeezed Charlie’s hand, kissed Kip’s head and, in the next second, pushed open the door to the ladies room, where we lingered for quite some time.

If anyone were to ask me today what came of my Enoughness Project, this story would have to be my best answer.

Barely any makeup, no glossy hair, dog-hairy yoga pants, worn t-shirt, kids slung all over me, conversing about poop and, when confronted with a dashing image of maleness and an otherworldly image of cool-ness, kissing my kids, batting my eyelashes and smiling like a starlet while walking into a gas station bathroom.

At that gas station on I-55 North, that was the enough-est version of me I know. Me being me without judgment. Me loving my loved ones, loving the present moment and loving myself such that no unfavorable ratio of me to “cool” could shake the fact that I am enough.

And that is exactly what I was going for with my Enoughness Project. Am still shooting for, because it’s ongoing. It wasn’t just about being mindful of and controlling my buying habits, it was mindfulness as my vehicle for reaching new awareness that I am enough, in every way. It’s not always easy, but at least I have a practice now. I know I have every second of every day to love myself and trust that what I innately am is exactly enough for this particular moment.

Perhaps you’ll have to come to this on your own, but this I do know: The same goes for you. You are exactly enough for this particular moment, every moment.

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Car dancing, naturally.

Enoughness Project Series #9: My own personal sleep patrol, “vacation,” fish tacos and more enoughness

Brian had a serious talk with me two Saturdays ago. “I’m worried about you,” he said. He has never once uttered those words to me in 10+ years of togetherness. My husband is neither a worrier nor a man who makes casual commentary, so when he told me he feels I need more sleep, I could think of no other option than to get up from my desk and come to bed.

So that answers the question of where I’ve been, and why I haven’t been posting as much as a committed blogger should. As so many of us are every day, I’d hopped on a train I thought I had to ride and Brian gave me permission to get off. Sure, it’s meant less night writing (because no writing–no nothing–gets done by day with my two wildmen throwing stuff at me or wrestling each other into horrific squeals if I so much as open my laptop), less time on the gazillion projects I have working at any given time and less journal-y exploration of my Enoughness Project. But it’s also meant more rest, which leads to a more grounded me, a me who makes all-around healthier choices for myself because my nerves are firing smoothly enough to do that.

Somewhere in this earlier-to-bed journey—and I frankly should be in bed right now—I’ve discovered something. And it’s novel.

My enoughness doesn’t have anything to do with what I buy, or don’t. Cue the awe and wonderment. I know. Whaaaat?!

It actually turns out my value as a human being is unrelated to what I wear or own, or how I decorate my home, my face or my garden, or even what anyone else thinks of me, what I do, how I am, what my kids or husband are like, etc.

I was on vacation last week. We’ll call it “vacation” but, as a mom packing up daily life and relocating it to a little lived-in cottage on a slimy green lake, you’re more vacation facilitator than actual vacationer.

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This is me, making the most of the slimy lake. While I took off in our ultra-portable new inflatable kayak, my spawn had no issue with the slime–or the cuts they got on their bare tootsies from the rocky bottom.

Anyway, I was there. And I was stepping around the kitchen in the old swimsuit coverup I wore every weekend in my mid-twenties frying fish tacos from the bluegill amassed by my husband and both of my wee sons that morning, and I thought, “Wow, I have so much to be thankful for. How could I have missed it?”

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Quinn men are very intent about their fish-getting. In this process, I discovered something else unrelated to enoughness and the like: a disturbing disconnect between my ability to eat animals, and my aversion to actually killing them myself. Topic for future discussion, perhaps. Or not.

Something about the act of once again cooking fresh-caught fish—after a very long hiatus due to the fact we no longer live by the sea and Brian hesitates to spear fish in Lake Michigan—and preparing it in the style of the region of Mexico I inhabited before becoming a mom to sons who’d just brought me a bounty of fish as their dad had always done in our early days, all while wearing a scant garment that was my veritable weekend uniform during a time of youthfulness and major inner blossoming in a tropical desert…it transported me in some way I can’t explain. It shifted me to a new frequency. There I was in a stranger’s knick-knacky weekend home beside a body of murky though fish-rich water listening to jet skis zipping back and forth using a crappy rented skillet wearing an old white embroidered kaftan and looking at my ugly Charlie-smudged DIY pedicured toes feeling like a resplendent queen.

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This is what happens in my world when you try to paint your toenails during Charlie and Kip’s normal waking hours. Not pretty.

The trappings of this life are not really where it’s at when you’re searching for your worth in the world. I suppose nostalgia and fish tacos aren’t the answer, either. Gratitude, however, may be the key to experiencing my own personal enoughness. Noticing how good it feels when you don’t care what you’re supposed to look like, or live like, love like or act like and just allowing yourself to look, live, love and be as you are, how you are, who you are, it feels like, well, more than enough.

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Homemade bluegill fish tacos.

#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.