12 Realizations from a Solo Road Trip

I asked life, "Why are you so difficult?" Life smiled and said. "You people never appreciate easy things."

Driving 1200 miles by yourself in two days, twice in one week gives you a lot of time to think. A lot of time to think.

Not that I really need any more reasons to think. I think, a lot. All day long. That’s why my RBF is near perfect. That’s Resting Bitch Face for those of you that don’t know the acronym. It’s not that I’m actually mad about anything that would cause my face to look that way. I’m usually deep in some analytical query, trying to solve the major problems of the world. Or more realistically, the major problems in my life.

However, a good long think in a car for seventeen hours all while being hot boxed by the horrific farts of a seventy pound Pitbull is sometimes necessary.  Especially when youre trying to find meaning in a few big things that have happened in your life in a small period of time. The past four months had flown by and the intensity of them hadn't really sunk in until 4:30am that morning when I got on I-5 heading north, towards Seattle. 

As I drove further and further away from Encinitas, I felt myself breath deeper and the tension melt away from the muscles in my back. And then it happened. Without any prompting, the tears flowed like wine. I say wine because well, I love wine and when I drink it, like Rosé, it flows pretty darn quickly down my throat. Crap, now I want some wine. 

Anyway, I digress.

I started, and proceeded to bawl my eyes out intermittently for the rest of the trip.  

As I watched myself feel the feels of the past four months, singing my heart out to my 'Seattle Road Trip' playlist, a list full of sappy love songs and melancholy top forty tunes, I felt tears run down my rosy (not rosé) warm cheeks and I gave myself room to be comfortable with everything coming up. Some of it surprised me, most of it didn't. 

I spent four days in Seattle which is always a mix of too long and too short of time and on the day I left to come back to Encinitas I was ready. I love that feeling, knowing you are exactly where you are meant to be. I'm always excited to get back to my life in Southern California.

This road trip didn't come without some big a-ha moments. Not surprisingly, the creative floodgates opened and all of the sudden I found my words again. That's been a consistent theme here, hasn’t it? I'll go weeks, if not months, without writing anything. Sometimes I get so busy and distracted in my life, I forget to make the time. Other times there really just isn't anything there, nothing is ready to be born and no matter what I do or how many times I sit and stare at my computer screen, nothing comes out the way I want, the way it should. 

However, as I drove down I-5 headed heading home, the words were flowing, once again, like sweet Rosé running down my throat, that I had to pull over and write out two separate posts. 

I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this list. I know, for a fact, that a lot of us struggle with the same things, and I hope, that you'll feel a little more understood and connected by reading it. 

12 Realizations from a Solo Road Trip

 

1. I'm enough, right here, right now, just as I am.

I've always struggled with feeling like I'm never enough. I'm never enough for the world, enough for my job, enough for my family, enough for friends, enough for a potential partner (This one is a dozy and probably a post in and of itself) However, slowly, over the last year, I've been really focused on letting that idea go and coming to a place of feeling enough as I am. Complete in all my chaotic, messy and imperfectness, right now.

I've been leaning into the idea of loving all sides of me. It hasn't been easy and I've definitely been met with one or more tests along the way, but every day I go to bed and practice this little thing called self-forgiveness and remind myself that tomorrow is a brand new day. I get the opportunity to try once again. 

2. Living from a place of love is far better then living out of fear. 

This is another extremely hard one for me. I've been hurt so many times over the years (who hasn’t?) that it has been easy to build a strong wall around my heart. I'm constantly battling between what my heart (my true self) and my head (my ego) thinks I should do. My heart wants nothing but to love and be loved in return. I really am one giant lover once you get past the rough exterior. I want to love no matter how someone else shows up, my heart wants to meet them wherever they are and beam them with love.

My head is like FUCK THAT. This person is a total and utter shit. Come on Amanda, let's push them away and run for the hills! Back up, back up, back up! This person is bound to break your heart or hurt you or break your trust. Back away and run. Save yourself woman!

I know that love is the way to go. In the end, love is all that matters, the world needs more love. and love always wins. The Beatles said it best, “All you need is love!” But it's hard for me. I'm ridiculously guarded at times, most of the time really, and it scares me to really let myself go and love. I'm a work in progress but aren't we all?

3. Worthiness is a birthright -- not something anyone should ever have the power to take away.

Ironically, my name, Amanda, literally means "worthy to be loved.” This makes me laugh because I'm pretty sure I popped out of the womb feeling a lack of worthiness and it's been a constant battle for me. Even with how much I've grown over the years, I find myself constantly being tested in this area. Worthiness goes so deep. 

However, on the drive it hit me, I've spent so much time letting my worthiness be dependent on external things. What other's think of me, how much money I make, how perfect I look on the outside, how skinny or fit I am, how people receive my art and the list goes on.  But listen to me closely as I whisper in your ear: WORTHINESS IS A FRIGGIN' BIRTHRIGHT! 

We give it away so easily though. We allow people and situations to determine what it means when really,  no one truly has the power to take your sense of worthiness away.

I was born worthy. I am worthy. And by God, so are you. 

4. Balance is everything. It's ok to love organic green juice AND whiskey neat. Even when you have cancer.  

When I was first diagnosed with cancer in March I got super strict and removed pretty much everything from my diet and a funny thing happened. At first I felt totally empowered but then I felt miserable. It reminded me of the days I struggled with a horrible eating disorder and was super controlling over what I ate and when I ate it. I hated that time in my life and I've come so far to be okay with feeling that way again.

I removed some of my most treasured rituals and found myself irritated that I felt I had to let them go. I tried everything to replace them with other, "more healthier" ones but I wanted my coffee and whisky neat. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm still very healthy. I love living that way. But after my surgery I realized that life is friggin' short. So I start my day off chugging a full glass of green mineral lemon water and then I have a cup of joe. I eat as alkaline as I can but I still give myself permission to have a cocktail too. And I know not everyone is going to agree with this but I'm ok with it and that brings me to my next one. 

5. Not everyone is going to like me, what I have to say or what I'm doing with my life -- I'm learning to give no fucks. 

I've lived way too long in the land of caring too much what other's think of me and my life and now I'm learning to not care so much (in a kind and loving way of course) and it is pretty freeing. 

I'm setting better boundaries and then fully owning what it is I want for myself without letting others influence my decision. I hope in the end, the happiness I'm discovering as I "give no fucks" is an example to others to own what what they, go after it and give no fucks too. 

And you know what, sometimes I like to cuss. I'm #givingnofucks.

6. Dogs may be slightly superior to cats-- but I will never let Oliver know. 

Considering my dog is currently drinking out of the toilet bowl, I'm reconsidering this one. 

7. No matter how lonely your path may feel, there is always someone waiting to help -- just ask. 

Asking for help is the best thing you can learn to do. Enough of this stoic bullshit.  People want to help but most of the time they have no idea what to say or do. So tell them already. Please, for the love of God, tell them. For you, for them, for me, for everyone involved. You’ll all be better off if you just speak up and say exactly what will help. Especially in times of need. 

8. I'm a vacationer, not a traveler. The truth shall set you free. 

My days of trekking from country to country, running from plane to train to automobile with only a backpack are coming to an end. I'm not even 100% sure I really enjoyed it to begin with. Give me a pool or beachfront, a good book and cool Mai Tai and I'm just about as happy as can be. 

Ah, it feels so good to be honest. 

9. Living in the place of maybe is a dangerous space -- more coming on that soon.  That's the other blog post. 

 Living from a place of maybe is dangerous. It lacks commitment. It's flakey. It's complacent. Too many of us live from this place now instead of one of yes or no. To live from this place you really have to own who you are and what you think you deserve and what you know you want. 

To be continued. 

10. Pain and hurt are great teachers. One of the best actually. 

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Yeah, I know, pain doesn't feel so good but honestly, it is one of the greatest teachers you will ever haveThis I know to be true from a lot of experience. You may grow a bit when you are all happy and in la la land but the real growth comes when you are down on your knees begging for it all to stop and then; what feels like out of nowhere, you find the strength to pull yourself back up slowly and you feel different, stronger from that experience. 

I'll write more on this later...

11. It’s okay to feel sad or mad, angry or disappointed and it’s definitely okay to cry about it.

It's okay to feel like shit sometimes. To sit there and just feel it. You really need to feel ALL of your emotions or they will fester inside and create a lot of turbulence in your life. You can't always affirm it way. Honestly, I've tried. Sometimes you have to really feel it first. 

 This allows for you to truly heal. Crying is actually one of the biggest stress relievers. Seriously. It’s science.

Personally, I went many years without really letting myself cry. I’d start, only to stuff it back down, feeling weak for allowing myself to surrender to a perfectly natural and healthy emotion. Now I cry a lot. I mean, a lot. It’s become the complete opposite. Allowing myself to cry makes me feel a sense of freedom when the tears dry up and I find it brings ease to whatever it was that was building up inside.

So go ahead, be a cry baby. It is good for you. 

12. There is an inner guidance that knows the way, listen to and follow it.

I know, the woo woo shit. I love this stuff. So here it is.  Everyone has had those moments of ‘gut intuition,’ where something inside of you told you to do this or not do that. That’s a good place to get used to living from. That’s the truth. When we allow our mind to take over and dictate what we do and do not do, that is when things get messy.

All my big decisions have started from me listening to and trusting that voice inside.The path isn’t always clear. In fact, it’s usually NEVER clear, but if I know anything to be true, whenever I’ve listened to that gut feeling, it’s always led to the very thing I’ve needed. 


And hey, if you enjoyed this post, share it, love it, comment below. I love hearing your thoughts. It gives me an opportunity to know YOU more. 

Dear Cancer, You Are Stealing From Me

**WARNING: I recently took a yoga class from my dear friend and her words penetrated deep. "Let the world see who you really are, where you are really at. It's not always pretty and perfect." So here is to a messy, raw and wildly authentic post. If you have an aversion to cuss words, well, maybe skip this one.  

"Everybody's got that chapter, of dark and darker days. Saturn seems to be returning and his essence can't be tamed. Some may like to fight it, try to plan a secret attack. But the more you push it the more it's pushing you back. So, you can't rush your healing. Darkness has its teachings. Love is never leaving. You can't rush your healing"

- Trevor Hall

I learned the hard way to not put out into the Universe the very thing you fear most because it will likely be presented to you at some point in time. The Universe will most definitely say, "Oh yeah, well I think you CAN handle it," and then throw whatever it is in your lap like a ton of bricks leaving you gasping for air. Sometimes life just isn't fair like that.

Shitty things happen to really great people. Beautiful and kind and amazing individuals are taken away from us way too soon. Disease happens and people lose things they never realized were valuable to them. Little kids get sick and die and horrible criminals live well into their nineties, unscathed.  

There is an imbalance in life and I don't think we'll ever really understand why. 

People often say, and I've been guilty of this myself, that everything happens for a reason. All of these things happen to shape and mold you, to help you grow into the person you are suppose to be. I've said that a bunch too. I laugh now and can't help but wonder if most of it is a crock of shit. That maybe life, sometimes, is just really unfair. 

Tragedies rip through lives stealing precious people and moments right before your eyes and you spin in circles trying to make sense of it and suddenly, "don't worry, this is all happening for a reason," sounds like a big pile of steaming bullshit. You wait and wait and wait to see things clearly, to understand why but nothing comes. No sense is made and you wonder, well then what was the fucking point? 

That is where I was last week when I learned that radiation was more then likely going to put me into early menopause and at the very least, leave me, infertile. Ouch. 

I want so badly to remain in a state of optimism, to lead with grace and kindness, to continue to believe that everything is happening for a reason and that life presents things to me so that I can evolve into the best version of myself. Except, I really don't feel like this experience is doing that at the moment. At least not right now and maybe that is the point. Maybe over time, this whole mess of an experience will make better sense and I'll be better because of it. 

Last week I fell deep within a cloud of bitter haze though as I sat alone with this news. I found myself throwing on fake smiles and diluted pleasantries to make everyone else feel at ease around me but the reality was, I was spinning from the feeling that cancer is stealing something mighty precious from me and I can't do anything about it. And I keep wondering, what is the bloody point? 

The funny thing is, I knew the highs and lows would come like a chaotic whirlwind. I've been through this before after all and I learned a huge lesson that time around. I knew that once the dust settled and life moved on and time went by, I'd feel all the feelings that come with this wild rollercoaster. I knew that I'd, at times, feel lost and forgotten. I knew I'd feel angry and scared. I knew I'd feel confused and baffled and even happy and peaceful by what I'd been given and I definitely knew unexpected things would happen that would change the course of my life forever. 

I knew my faith and sense of optimism would be tested like it never had before. 

What I didn't realize however, was that my life wouldn't even look like my own anymore. That everything would change and I'd feel like I was standing in the middle of Time Square staring at everything moving a million miles an hour all around me and I'm just watching and waiting for everything to make sense to me once again. Yet, none of it does.

And so I sunk. Deep and dark I went. In all honesty, if it wasn't for a few things that happened that helped distract me from my current reality, I wonder if I would have continued sinking? I felt somewhat balanced. 

Then the news came last week. News that made me feel out of control and helpless and I found myself facedown kicking and screaming on the floor and I realized how distracted I had been. I wondered how much of this reaction was from this news and how much of it was the aftermath of time and not truly processing the magnitude of what I was going through.

This news however, opened up that dark pit once again and I sank. 

But as everyone knows, time changes things. Even in the span of a week. This week has felt lighter and I see how much I have actually grown over the years. I have tools and resources now and the greatest advantage possible; perspective. 

I've been thinking a lot about perspective and our attitudes towards traumatic things that happen to us. How we think we lose our power by situations and circumstances that are out of our control, then it hit me, it's our attitude and perspective that GIVES us the power. 

Last week, as I watched a lifelong dream slip through my fingertips, I also let my personal power melt away with it. Demons surfaced, ones that whispered lies to me, ones that created chaos in my mind, ones that I've worked tirelessly to quiet over the years. 

Then this week something radical resurfaced out of a choice; faith and hope. I realized that as unfair as it may feel, I do have a choice. I can allow cancer to harden me, to add a bitter layer, to feel helpless and anger towards life, OR, let it continue to soften me, to add depth, and an openness to relate to and be there for others in a way I never have been before. 

I know very well which attitude I want to cultivate. But it's not always easy and I know the demons will try again and again and I'll fight back with everything I've got because I'm committed. I've chosen which side I'm on and I really want to do my best every day. I'm committed to living my life with purpose and waking up daily and reminding myself that I GET to live life this way. That I've chosen faith and hope and love over the dark side. That, in the end, I DO have all the power and I DO believe that something mighty wonderful will come out of these dark moments. 

So maybe cancer can come in like a thief in the night and steal a precious experience from me, one that feels like a birthright really, but in the end I get to choose how I react to it. I get to process it, move through it and ultimately, live it the way I see fit. 

So in the end cancer, I win. 

 

 

 

How My Life Feels Like a Racy One Night Stand

My mom called me this evening to share that a few of my "fans" back home are waiting with bated breath for the next installment of, "What the hell is happening with this damn and entirely bizarre cancer stuff" and I'm trying desperately to find the words to please them. To give them the very thing they want but they just aren't coming and oddly enough, I don't even really want talk about cancer anymore. I've actually gone a whole couple of hours completely forgetting that I still have it. That I am still in the middle of being diagnosed and I still have a long road ahead. 

Surgery has come and gone and on Wednesday, May 31st, after weeks of more insurance issues, I am finally having the other lymph node biopsied to see if it is in fact, cancer.  This will dictate my treatment protocol, something I'm still wrapping my head around.

There were actually three lymph nodes that lit up in my PET scan, one has already been removed when I had my inguinal lymph node dissection on April 20th, and the other two are in my pelvis/sacrum area. They can only reach one because the other in my sacrum is too deep. This requires sedation and a big long needle going directly into my pelvis. All I can say is, THANK GOD FOR DRUGS. As much as I am a purist at heart, eating organic, using organic and natural products on my skin and throughout my home, I am so grateful for those wonderful and glorious drugs that will knock me out for this procedure. 

But like I said, I don't really want to talk about this. 

Lately I've been thinking about how much has changed in my life over the course of three months. Right before I was diagnosed I had this crazy feeling that I was on the cusp of some pretty major life changes. There was an anxious energy in the air and being the highly intuitive person I am, I knew cha cha changes were around the corner. Have you ever known your life was about to drastically changed right before it did and then it does and you feel like you are spinning in the middle of a tornado and you can't get proper footing? That's pretty much what happened to me and it's how I have felt ever since.

Everything is the same yet nothing is the same. It reminds me of that t-shirt you see EVERYWHERE in SE Asia with the words, "Same same but different" printed on front and I feel like I need to own that shirt because that is now my life.

I stare in the mirror every day and see the same women yet hardly recognize her. Has cancer really changed me that much so soon or am I just going through one of those periods in life where you have a massive internal shift that just so happened to coincide with a tragic life event? 

To give you an idea of what has changed over the last three months here is a rundown: 

* new roommate
* cancer diagnosis
* massive amounts of art made and sold/art opening
* surgery  
* MANY doctors appointments
* MANY visitors (mom, sister-in-law, older brother, both my best friends from Seattle)
* fostered a dog but have totally fallen in love and have decided to keep him
* something else I can't quite mention yet but it's BIG
* got a new car
* met some new friends

Now I'm totally aware that most of this stuff, minus the cancer is pretty amazing but change is change and the processing is always interesting and sometimes presents its own challenges. Especially when you are creature of habit and a women with many daily rituals as I am. There are moments when I am craving the familiarity of life right before everything changed but then I realize that real change, the internal stuff,  happens when your life gets thrown upside down. That's when you see what you are made of. That is when you see if all those other millions of lessons in your past and all the learnings you took away have really stuck. This is when you are forced to see just how grounded and sane you actually are.. or just how crazy.  

So yes, most of these changes are exactly what I've needed but they still cause me some pretty significant anxiety and make me feel like I'm stumbling around drunk and naked in the dark looking for my clothes after a racy one night stand. I've actually never had a one night stand so I don't technically know what this looks or feels like but I imagine it is a mix of "oh shit oh shit oh shit, what did I just do and F*&K yeah, I just DID that!" as you run out the door giggling as quietly as you can as to not wake them and have the awkward, "Well, that was fun" exchange. 

And that my friends, has me thinking, maybe I SHOULD have some racy one night stands because if all of this has taught me anything it's that life is entirely too short and anything can happen at any moment and I'll be damned if I go down without feeling like I've truly lived. Then again. I'm not so sure that a racy one night stand will make me feel like I'm actually living but hey, I'm sure as hell going to figure out what does. 

So that is where I am at. Trying to figure out what exactly I need in my life to feel like I'm not wasting any of this precious time on things that weigh me down and contribute to my own personal suffering. 

So my new motto, the one I'm going to live by from here on out is, "Does this make me feel like I'm having a racy one night stand?" 

If yes, I'm on the right track.

Maybe we all need to think of that one thing that terrifies and excites us all in the same moment. That one thing that will help us gauge if we are truly living. What is that for you? What is that thing that is going to make you feel alive. Maybe it's not the idea of a racy one night stand. Maybe it's a double cheese burger with extra mayo when you swore you were giving up meat for the last time. Maybe it's jumping out of an airplane when you are terrified of heights. Maybe it's falling so deeply in love after your heart was shredded in a million pieces. Maybe maybe maybe...

I don't know what it is for you but for me, it's the way, I think, a racy one night stand would make me feel. A bit terrifying and extremely freeing with a good dose of uncontrollable giggles. 

And really, isn't that what we all need more of anyway? 

More giggles.

 Get your mind out of the gutter. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't wait. The Time Is Now.

"I know the rain is cold my dear, but dance in it a little while you wait for the sun." - a.j. lawless

It's been two days since my surgery and I'm home, resting somewhat comfortably on my couch with my legs up on top of a pillow. Aches and pains fill my left side and pelvis from the procedures they performed. One was the inguinal dissection of the left lymph nodes and the other was a D & C (Dilation and curettage) which is a procedure to remove tissue from inside my uterus. Basically, my doctor scraped out the first layer of my uterus  with a rake-like medical devise. There's a mental image for you. 

I had no idea what to expect from this surgery and I did too much of the very thing you shouldn't do and research way too much and totally freaked myself out. I've only really ever known surgery to be excruciating. When I had part of my colon removed in 2005, complication arose and I got extremely sick and was in a tremendous amount of pain. I had a pic line and drains and an ileostomy bag and was very sick. Naturally, I figured this surgery would bring about similar pains. It's funny how our mind does that to us. 

Given the nature of that surgery and the complications that arose, its safe to say that I developed a good amount of PTSD. However, this surgery hasn't been nearly as rough but I imagine, and I'm prepared for, its own set of hardships.

I did have to leave the hospital with a drain connected to the area where they removed lymph nodes which I'll have for a minimum of two weeks. I have to empty it twice a day which was similar to my ileostomy bag. I also left with some mighty good pain meds but I hate being on them. They make me nauseous and I feel like I'm floating out of my body. They also make me feel like I"m having a panic attack and I can't think. So I'm trying very hard to not take them. But I think I may cave today as I overdid it this morning and now am dealing with more pain then I had since the surgery. 

My mom went to run errands and my roommate left to go volunteer with some of her students so I have the house to myself for a bit. It's an eery feeling. I haven't really been alone since finding out the results of my PET scan which were worse then I had hoped. Apparently, the cancer was in multiple lymph nodes along my left side and had spread to a pelvis/sacrum node as well and I can't help but wonder if that is why my lower back has been hurting so bad the last few months. I can't help but think back to a lot of my so called symptoms and wonder if that was the cancer the whole time. 

They still don't know exactly where the cancer started. They don't know how to diagnose me and my oncologist even said that this case is very rare. It's not normal. Here is the thing about me though; I'm all for not being normal and being unique but in this case, I'd actually prefer to be a little more mainstream. I'd actually prefer my cancer be a little more black and white. I'd prefer to know exactly what to expect but I don't and that is a hard place for me to be. 

My world feels a little foggy right now and this surgery is only the beginning. I have a long road ahead of me and I have no idea what is in store. All I can do at this point is hope like hell that what they find isn't as serious as I feel like it may be. 

 I'm grateful though. I'm grateful for all the love a support I've received. From my family, my friends, strangers. Thank you. 

Thank you to all those that have shared with me that I am on their prayer lists and their aunt's church prayer lists and so forth. I know I have an army behind me. I know I have some mighty good connections to the big G.O.D so I feel safe and in good hands. But I'm still scared.

I don't want to have cancer. It's a very strange feeling to know that there is something inside of me and it's very job is to seek and destroy every last part of me until I take my last breath. It wont come to that mind you. I'm stronger then this beast. This beast doesn't quite know what it's dealing with and I'm trying very hard to not show it my fear. 

But I'm scared. 

Words like more surgery, radiation and chemotherapy have already been dropped and that scares me. That scares the crap out of me. I don't want to lose my hair. I don't want to pump my body full of poison or fry my reproductive organs under a machine. 

I keep repeating conversations that my old roommate and I had about what we'd do if cancer came back into our lives. We are both rather holistic and I always thought I'd fight this with natural medicine but here I am, now faced with that choice and I'm scared of the decision I have to make. I don't know what to do. All I know, without a doubt, is that I want to live and I want to live in a mighty big way. I know that I have a lot left to do and I also know that this experience is part of that plan. But I still don't really know what to do regarding this cancer that I am facing right now. So I'm thankful for this time of the unknown. This time of not having to decide anything. 

Why does it take something bad happening to remind us of how bad we want to live? Why does it take something like this happening to remind us of how lucky we are or how much we still want to do with our lives?

I hope I remember when this is all said and done, to live like I've never lived before. To take even more risks and be even braver in my choices. To say yes more to the things that light me up and no to those things that are petty and bullshit. 

I hope I forgive more easily and love even bigger. 

I hope I tell those I love them every single time I talk to them. 

I hope I close more doors that no longer deserve my time and attention so that other doors, doors that are waiting to be open can do so. 

But then again, why am I waiting for all this to be over to do so. Screw that. The time is now. Live like this now. Don't wait. Don't you dare wait for the right time because that time IS right now. Take it from me, when you find out something like this, you have a moment when everything flashes before your eyes and you wonder why you aren't living the way you believe you should be.

So from here on out...while I fight this fight, I'm also going to live this one precious life of mine exactly as I want to. 

Wild, free and full of purpose and adventure. 

I hope you do too. Live your life they way you've always wanted to. 

 

 

 

Single Female Seeks the Butterflies

"Fuck butterflies. I feel the whole zoo when I'm with you." - Unknown. 

The other day I was swiping through Bumble in an effort to totally and completely distract myself for a few minutes when I started cracking up at the irony of what I was doing. I wonder if I should change my profile to say, "Single women with cancer of unknown primary source seeks tall, dark and handsome man. I laughed out loud. "Fuck that!" I thought to myself.  What she actually seeks is a kind, compassionate, empathetic and incredibly patient man who will hold her hand through the scary and shitty parts of life."  I laughed again as the smile on my face started to fade and the unavoidable reality settled back in. 

Single woman with cancer seeks kind, compassionate, empathetic and patient man who will hold her hand through the scary and hard parts of life. 

I know this should be the very last thing on my mind right now but for the last few days it has been all consuming. I think it's because I'm craving the endorphins that comes with happy newness and right now everything is so unknown and scary. But what I want more then anything, is to get tangled up in matters of the heart. I can't help but wonder if all this would be easier if I had someone walking by my side every step of the way. Someone who says sweet things like, "Babe, we'll get through this together." Someone who I can rest my head on his should and cry. Someone who, despite everything, sends me into uncontrollable fits of laughter. 

But I don't. And that's my reality right now. I don't even have a crush on anyone at this moment in time. Zilch. Nada. No one. Not one single person. There isn't one single guy out there that gives me butterflies. And for this overly romantic heart of mine, that makes life a little boring. From the time I can remember, I've ALWAYS had a crush on someone. 

I'm sure there is a reason behind all of it. Surely, there is a reason I'm going through this without a person to call my own. Surely I need to be reminded (once again) just how strong and capable I am. (yes, that's sarcasm you hear)

But then again, who's gonna want to date a gal freshly diagnosed with the big "C?"

Can you imagine a first date right now? 

"So Amanda, tell me about yourself?" says potential suitor. Yes, the question sounds like one you'd get at a job interview but aren't first dates kind of equivalent to that? 

"Well, where do I start?" I say. " I'm super active, I love being in the mountains and outdoors in general. I make bad ass wood art and I'm in school for Graphic and Web Design. Oh, yeah....I totally forgot. I was also just diagnosed with cancer and they can't seem to find where it started in my little old body." I pause, taking giant sip of my organic green juice. "This was fun. Wanna go on a second date?" 

I can see the remnants of dust as said suitor peels away quickly in his car, frantic to get away from the girl with the big "C."

I imagine a lot of these feelings have to do with the fact that my family is 1200 miles away and the initial dust has settled and I'm alone here in my little home in Encinitas...with cancer and everything feels like it's going at a snails pace and all I want are the friggin' butterflies and to not think about cancer and instead, think about the man behind the butterflies. Is that too much to friggin' ask?

Yes, I do believe a lot of the feelings of loneliness are circling about right now because I am so far away from my people. We talk daily but I'd give anything to be in the same room as all of them right now. I'd give anything to be back amongst the green trees of the Pacific North West enveloped in snuggles and hugs. 

So my reality is just feeling a little dark right now as I move from one stage of grief to the next. Out of shock and denial into pain and anger. It's as natural as taking a breath and I'm fully committed to honoring this process but I can just as easily honor this process with butterflies in my belly as I can without. So throw me a friggin' bone God, will you? Give me the butterflies!

 I imagine that my obsessive thoughts about dating stem from wondering if I'd feel as lonely if I had a partner to fight along side me, holding my hand through all the scary tests and decisions I'm about to face? 

I haven't once asked why me but the last few days I've been feeling that questions peak up from deep down. I know the 'why' doesn't matter. The 'what I will do with all of this' does. I know what is important is how I let this experience move and transform me. How I allow this process to give me what I need to help others down the road. 

But hey, can I please have a side of butterflies too? 

 

 

 

  

Today is the day because don't you know?

"Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learned to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything." - Saul Leiter
 

It's 6:30am on a Thursday morning, almost two weeks to the day that I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of an unknown primary source. 

I thought I would have heard from them by now. The oncologist at UCSD Moore Cancer Center.  I mean, it's been over a week since they received my case. How can they possibly still be reviewing it? Don't they know I have cancer? 

Thoughts circle my mind like a whirlwind of chaos as I sit up and attempt to settle into my first meditation practice of the day but all I can think about is the big, goopy cup of coffee I so friggin' want right now. I'm missing some of my old rituals.

 As committed as I am to eating and drinking things that only promote alkalinity in my body, I just want to be sitting at the base of a big mountain in the early morning, with the soft glow of spring light kissing the snow caps, sipping on cheap, instant goop. I wonder if I'll ever be able to drink coffee again without feeling guilty. 

I'm growing frustrated with the system as I wait on more information. I'm starting to feel like I've been swept under the rug, once again.  Over the last few days I've noticed a certain irritation, an impatience for myself and with others, bubbling up from within. My type A side is feening for more ridgity and order yet my wild and free spirit is enjoying the unknown. I feel like a total conundrum. My head is spinning. 

I take a deep breathe and focus on my breathing, doing my best to attempt to let go of any linger irritation and chaotic thoughts. 

"Just focus on your breathing, Amanda." I quietly say to myself as I place my left hand on my chest. "Let all that other junk fall away. For now."

I come to from my trance-like meditative state and realize I actually meditated! I'm kind of excited because lately its felt more like a violent battle between the competing thoughts in my head instead of a mediation practice. Screw the silence, let's just see which ones I can keep at bay the longest! That alone felt like a success.

"Today's the day!" I say to myself as I slip out from under the covers, resting on the edge of the bed as I pull on my fuzzy white Penguin socks. The ones my mom gave me for Christmas two years ago. 

Today is the day they'll call. Don't they know I have cancer

I prepare my warm lemon water and stand staring out the kitchen window at my back yard, I look at the garden and a smile forms across my lips as I imagine the harvest we will have in a few months. I think about the conversation my housemate and I had yesterday as we were cleaning out the garden, getting it ready for planting on Saturday. How empowering it was going to feel to grow our own food. I laughed and told her that I'd rather be hands deep in dirt and soil then out partying any day. 

I'm shaken from my memory by the sound of boiling water. 

Today is the day they'll call. Don't they know I have cancer

Earlier this week I joked with a friend and said, "they better figure something out soon cause I'm already bored with cancer. I'm bored of talking about it.  I just want to get back to my life."

So that's what I decided to do. Get back to it. Because despite this recent diagnosis of mine, I must keep moving forward. 

When I first realized my gut feeling was becoming my reality, I immediately thought of all the stuff I was doing. I am only half-way through my first semester of school. Last time, twelve years ago, I had just completed my first quarter back at school. Seriously, not again. I don't have time to put all this on hold. 

So today, they have to call. They have to because don't they know I have cancer. 

And my art. I have momentum. I have plans. I don't have time to put all this on hold either.

I wonder; why is it that right when things feel good, right when I feel like I'm going down a path that feels so friggin' good, life throws a giant curveball? 

I've been mulling over something for a few years now, something I think people often say to provide comfort but I wonder, does it? 

"God does not give you more then you can handle."  

I've been turning it over and over in my head because it bugs. Yet, I've found myself repeating it often. To myself and others, as a source of comfort. But I'm not sure that I believe it. 

What I feel like saying is this:  

"I'm good God. I think I've had my fair share of challenges to learn and grow from. I mean, it's not that I can't handle it. I KNOW I can handle this. I am one strong bamajama. There is no denying that. But God, I'm good. I think I've had my fair share."

And then I hear God laugh in the far off distance. And I give him my most perfect glare and eye roll. 

Today they'll call. They have to. Don't they know I have cancer. 

I get ready for school and call Brooke, my best friend back in Seattle. We catch up, both sharing our latest frustrations with the medical system and then we encourage the other to call our doctors and insist on moving forward. "Be your own advocate!" I cheer and laugh into the phone. "We are women, hear us roar! The sounds of claps and cheers fill my head and I cheer on my best friend. 

I hang up with Brooke and silence.

I feel weak, forgotten and powerless as I call UCSD. 

I'm transferred to a gal named Wendy and she informs me that my case has, in fact, finally been approved. I can't help but suddenly feel like dollars signs are hanging over my head.. 

"April 10th is the soonest I can get you in to see one of the oncologist." says Wendy. Tears well up in my eyes. I clear my throat and try to compose myself. " But that's over a week and a half away. You don't have anything sooner? I've already been sitting on this diagnosis for two weeks. I'm also losing my insurance at the end of April and there will be a lapse until I can get private insurance. I kind of need to do whatever it is I need to do before that" 

"You mean surgery? Oh well, we are already booking out into the middle of May for that anyway. I'm sorry. We are just really busy." She replies. This fact alone is just depressing in and of itself. They're just "really busy." 

"But wait!" I want to shout. "Don't you know I have cancer?" 

"I guess just put me down for that one." I say as nicely as I can. I know I can't take out my frustrations on her but I surely want to. "Can I get on a cancellation list?"

"You can call back Monday and see if anyone's cancelled. It does happen every now and then." Wendy replies.

"Okay, thanks."

I hang up the phone and give myself a few moments to cry in the drivers seat sitting in my car in the school parking lot. 

Because don't they know, I have cancer? 

 

 

 

 

Ah, Cancer...it's been awhile.

"I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." -- Anne Lamott

Well, I'm pretty sure the title of this post says it all but just to be clear...

On Friday, March 17th, I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer with an unknown primary source. 

For those of you who are a little uncertain what metastatic cancer means, it is cancer that has spread from a primary location to another location in your body. 

Yeah, it's still a little hard for me to wrap my head around too. 

However, if I'm honest, It really wasn't that shocking given the golf ball size swollen lymph node in my groin. However, hearing the words come out of my doctors mouth was still, needless to say, shocking. 

For me, the last six weeks have been filled with doctor appointments, antibiotics, ultrasounds, CT scans, a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, biopsies and waiting.

A lot of waiting.  

And you probably want to know the story, where I'm at and how I'm moving forward with this very strange and unfamiliar diagnoses. 

I've been debating on whether or not to share and how much to share because there is so much unknown still. Part of me wants to keep this tightly wrapped in my protective bubble of a handful of family and friends because it makes me feel safe. Ultimately, I think there is great power in vulnerability. I think there is a power so mighty and fierce in the collective whole, and that in some strange way, that by sharing, something great will come from this. 

In some strange way, from the moment I was diagnoses, I've felt this, in an almost unexplainable way, was a gift that will unfold with time. And part of my purpose in this life is to share, with the hopes that someone reads something that may help them. 

So here is the story, where I am at with all of it and what I am currently doing about it. 

THAT LYMPH NODE IS HUGE!

About six months ago I went to the doctor for a swollen lymph node in my left groin. It was big enough to be concerning and it was painful and also coincided with another infection but my doctor didn't seem too concerned. Even when in my gut I wanted to press for more tests, I ignored it and kicking and screaming, got on the antibiotics she prescribed and the infection and lymph node went away with a seven day dose. Two weeks later, I was climbing Mt. Whitney and my swollen lymph node was a thing of the past. I didn't really think much of it other then my initial gut feeling of, "Something feels off here."

Then at the end of January I developed another infection and the lymph node became swollen once again and started to become extremely painful. I decided to go back to my doctor and see what she thought. However, this time I went back to my OBGYN instead as I had a better relationship with her and I knew she would be fully on board to do anything to get to the bottom of this. 

 We decided to put me on stronger dose of antibiotics for 14 days because there was a chance that if this was again an infection, it could be contained in the lymph node. So, again kicking and screaming, I started this gnarly dose of antibiotics but when nothing changed, we both became concerned and decided that we needed to explore this further. 

The following week I went in to have an ultrasound which showed that there was definitely an abnormal growth. Duh. I'm no medical professional but the golf ball size lymph node in my groin was a pretty good indication that something was abnormal. 

Then came the biopsy; which, let me just say, I've been poked and prodded so many times in my life and I usually barely blink and eye, but this one got me good. More so emotionally then anything.

And then it was back to waiting. Lots of waiting. Which is always the worst. 

Then on Friday, after an emotional week of doctor calls and waiting, I got the call from my doctor with the final pathology report:  Metastatic Cancer. I had cancer, it had spread to the lymph node and we have no idea where it started in my body. 

hey, what's up your um....?

Serendipitously, I had already had my annual colonoscopy schedule for March 21st and my mom was flying in March 20th to take me to my appointment and spend a little quality time with me. My colonoscopy is a part of my yearly screening for colon cancer, which I had when I was twenty-four. 

Part of me thought this was going to be it. I was almost sure of it. But after my upper and lower scope showed no signs of stomach or colorectal cancer, I was rather shocked (and relieved). We could cross those off the list. Can you see the excitement in my eyes right after my procedure. ;)

Then on Thursday, March 23rd I got a CT scan with a barium contrast to indicate if the primary cancer was anywhere from my lungs down to my reproductive organs. Other then the lymph node in my groin, the scans revealed nothing. No masses or tumors here either. 

This super 'delicious' stuff is what you take before a CT scan. I kept saying it was my "banana milkshake" to my mom while singing, "my milkshake brings all the boys to the ground..." as I chugged the chalky paste down. 

So now what? 

An interesting thing happens when you are diagnosed with cancer. You want answers and you want them RIGHT NOW. You want to know exactly what you need to do right this very instant to make this thing go away. 

Time stands still yet everything else is moving so damn fast around you. 

Its like in the movies where the main character is standing in a busy intersection and everything is racing around them at lightening speed and you are just standing there staring. How can life really be going on around you when YOU just found out you have cancer? 

The big "C" word consumes your every waking moment. If you are extremely proactive like myself, you are researching any and everything you can. From possible forms of cancer that metastasizes to this specific lymph node, to holistic and natural treatments and protocols I can start incorporating right now to get the body ready for whatever may come, cancer is on the brain at all times. 

More then anything though, this has been a huge exercise in seeing how far I've come and leaning into the unknown. I've been forced to dig deep and bring forth everything I've learned over the last few years about coping and thriving through the unfamiliar waters of the unknown without completely melting down. 

And throughout this all, I've felt a sense of calmness and peace I've never felt before. As if, everything tool I've learned, from mediation to self-love and forgiveness, to eating in a way to support my body through this, to asking people for exactly what I need, has armed me with everything I need to get through this patiently. 

Because unfortunately, there is a lot more waiting ahead of me. 

And that is where I am at now. 

My case has now been turned over to the Moore Cancer Center oncology department at UCSD and is being reviewed by the oncologist on staff. I hope to get an appointment with them in the next week. 

But for now I wait. 

I imagine next will be a PET scan to indicate potential hotspots and possible surgery to remove the lymph node.

So now the big question. How am I emotionally with all of this?

Initially it was hard to hear that once again, cancer had found it's way back into my life. Being faced with it at such and young age and watching members of my family and friends go through it for several years, I'm no stranger to cancer. But here's the thing, no matter how many times you hear the word, it's still just as shocking when someone says, "You have cancer."

Then throw in the word metastatic and it can send you into a bit of a panic. 

However, after the initial shock wore off and as my colonoscopy and CT scan came back clean, I'm optimistic that this isn't as bad as I had originally thought. That hopefully, it's just some weird rare cancer that is confined to my lymph but looks like metastatic cancer.  

In the meantime I've put myself on a super strict Alkaline diet, working with my natropath/Chinese medicine doctor incorporating as many holistic and natural therapies as I can right now to get my body and immune system as strong as possible.

I strongly believe the body can heal itself when given the right tools. I also believe that sometimes Western medicine is needed and this is one of those times. So I'll be using both to heal from whatever is going awry in my body. 

As I wait to gather more information I'll fight like heck to do whatever I can in the meantime to start the healing process. And that looks a little something like this:

Immune supporting therapies
Alkiline, organic diet ONLY
Colonics and enemas to properly detox
Therapy and Reiki
Prayer
Visualization and mediation
Essential Oils (Frankincense and Myrrh) and many others
Laughter - lots of it!
And I'm reading and talking to EVERYONE I can about all my options. I'm not going to rush into anything until I know everything I can. 

Below is one of the books I'm reading. 

And the lemon tree my mom bought me... when life gives you lemons...you drinks LOTS of lemon water for detoxification. 

I know some of you may role your eyes at this but there are countless stories and research out there that support the incredible benefits of Integrative Medicine and that is the only way I'll be comfortable treating this. 

At the end of the day, it's very personal. Although I choose to share openly because I believe sharing and connecting with others is not only healing for myself but could possibly help someone else, this all comes down to one thing; what feels right and the best to me. 

And I truly hope you learn to apply that same idea to your own life. 

In the meantime, I have a favor to ask all of you. Whether you pray, meditate, think positively, climb big mountains to feel closer to your source, please keep me in mind when you are doing all of it. 

Keep me in your thoughts, your prayers, your meditations, your light. When you are doing things that make you happiest, I hope you can radiate that joy my way. I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of the unknown. And I believe, more then anything, that I will get through this with your love, laughter, and light shining my way. 

I plan to document this journey as much as I can through this blog and videos. So if you want to be apart of it, please check back regularly. 

Until then, so much love to all of you. 

Love, 

Amanda

Books to Inspire (top 10 so far)

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Growing up in Seattle, there were many cool mornings and evenings that brought with them plenty of excuses to get cozy curling up with some warm tea and whatever book I was in the middle of. This was probably something I learned from my mom as she was an avid book lover too. 

The redolent enveloped me as I slowly flip page to page in anticipation of whats was to come next, brings with it a deep comfort that only other book lovers understand.

I'm the girl that brings four books with her on any given trip, weighing my bag down by at least five pounds and if you look in my purse at any given time, you better believe there is a book tucked somewhere inside. You never know when you'll get stuck somewhere and need a good book. 

Some books I read with a fiery passion, finishing in mere days, and others, I've been slowly chipping away at for months, taking in only what is needed at the time. Long ago I told myself this was ok. Some books you pick up and the timing just feels off and you find yourself picking it up a year later and reading it in a few days. I'm convinced I'll finish them when the time is right.

Over the years, I have read books that stick out more then others, and a few that I've read multiple times. There have been those that have stayed with me for weeks after I finished the last sentence and others that have inspired me to make radical changes. Some have made me cry tears of joy and ones of sadness and others that have answered questions I've sat with for a long time. But nothing, and I mean nothing, quite feels the same as a book that, long after you've read the last line, still tugs at your heart. 

And because I love to learn of books that have inspired others, I thought maybe you would enjoy learning of books that have greatly inspired me. 

Here are my top ten favorites. 

Enjoy!

1. Bird by Bird  - Anne Lamott 

First of all, this woman and her writing. Gah! I can't even say enough about the way she writes. I was originally drawn to her because of the way she communicated her understanding of God and Christianity and then I stumbled upon this book. 

I had always wanted to be a writer when I was younger. I had wild stories dancing in my head but in fourth grade I started getting pulled out of class to attend a special reading class for students who had trouble reading and comprehending things. Somehow from that I concluded that I wasn't intelligent or creative enough to write. This book changed that for me. This book changed so much for me. 

If you have the dream of writing...pick up this book.  

2. Broken Open - Elizabeth Lesser

When I began this book I knew right away I could easily finish it within a few days. So, I intentionally slowed down to savor every single word. This book is for anyone who has ever been through something challenging that has lead them to a crossroads, a choice, a decision. Will I sink away into the pain, allowing it to consume and eat at me or will the brokenness help me shift and open me up and allow life to change me for the better?

I absolutely believe this is a must read for all. 

3. The Universe Has Your Back - Gabrielle Bernstein

I often find myself saying cliche things like, "everything happens for a reason" and the "Universe/God has a plan for me. I trust what is unfolding." However, I started to realize that I would say these things yet there was an underlying distrust and belief in what I was saying. Naturally somewhat skeptical, I want to believe that we are fully supported by something much bigger then us, yet I've always had the question in the back of my mind of, "Are we really?"

In walks Gabby and her uncomplicated way of teaching us all that the Universe REALLY does have our back. "Stop chasing life and truly live." This is a concept that has taken me awhile to understand. "Let Go, Let God" was another cliche saying I always said to myself and to others but as a natural control freak, I was and still am (although I'm practicing the art of letting go daily now) grasping and clinging on to whatever I thought was right for me instead of really trusting that there IS something better in the works. 

Gabby gives you easy and tangible practices to help you redefine your belief and trust in the process of allowing life to flow. 

Game changer! 

4. Scary Close - Donald Miller

Oh Donald Miller, if you weren't already married I'd hunt you down and propose myself. Oh how I adore you and everything you write. This book speaks to me in a pretty profound way. Donald writes about relationships and vulnerability and about dropping the act and really stepping up and loving yourself and others by showing the world who you truly are. 

He speaks to the process of uncovering your authentic self in a way I've yet read before. 

I think this quote speaks volumes. 

"When two people are entirely and completely separate they are finally compatible to be one." 

You'll look at yourself and the way you are in relationships in a much different and healthier way. 

5. You Can Heal Your life - Louise Hay

This is one of the first books I read that had to do with that infamous quote, "Change your thoughts, change your life." Louise talks about mental patterns and how they contribute to dis-ease in our lives. 

If we can get to the root (out thoughts) and transform these patterns into ones that are based on the truth, we can radically change our lives. Sounds nice, huh? 

It's an easy read with applicable exercise to get you thinking and doing in alignment with who you truly are. 

6. Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller

Christianity has both intrigued me and baffled me all at the same time. I grew up going to Christian camp, hosted Youth Group at my house and attended church on holidays but never really fully understood the concepts behind Christianity and often found myself feeling like a fake because well, I'm totally, 100% human and f&%k up all the time. I never thought I'd be a good Christian or a spiritual person because I was such a sinner. (Can you smell the Catholic influence?)

Fortunately, I have an older brother who has a special way of explaining certain principles and ideas to me whenever I have questions but I started to grow more curious over time and turned to books. Donald Miller and Anne Lamott (see number 1) both have, hands down, the most engaging ways of speaking to Christianity and Spirituality in general. 

I've always struggled with the hypocrisy (within myself and with others) behind religion and both of these authors are incredibly relatable and make you feel like it's okay to be human, make mistakes, swear and STILL walk the path of faith and spirituality. 

If you have every struggled with your path, anything by either of these authors is worthy of reading. 

7. Trust Your Vibes - Sonia Choquette

From a very early age I just knew things. I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm psychic, although I've definitely has my "psychic" experiences, I've always had an extremely heightened intuition. Later I discovered I am an empath which made my life and my extremely sensitive nature make just a little more sense to me.  

This book is all about learning to tap into and trust your intuition in a very simplistic  and authentic way. 

8. Women Food and God - Geneen Roth

WOW. It's been a few years since I read this book but I remember that was my reaction. As someone who struggled with a very long battle with food and my body, Women Food and God opened my eyes to the relationship between how we eat and our core beliefs about ourselves and our own spirituality. This blew my mind. 

Easy, uncomplicated read that is pretty eye opening as well. 

9. Light Is The New Black - Rebecca Campbell

Every so often a book lights me up even before I read the first page. I just know it's going to impact my life in some way and I knew I was going to love this book the minute I laid my eyes on it.

Authenticity is thrown about in many spiritual circles and the word is pretty mainstream now but this book draws your awareness back to the core meaning and opens your eyes to what is important; the true essence of who you are and your souls calling. 

I love any book that reminds us that we already have all the answers inside. 

10. Daring Greatly - Brene Brown

The first book I read discussing the topic of vulnerability. Prior to reading this book I had very little real understanding of what it meant to be truly vulnerable and real. 

Based off of years of research, Brene clearly dispels the myth that vulnerability is not a form of weakness but rather a sign of huge and tremendous strength and ultimately, courage. 

Vulnerability is about being wildly courageous. Putting ourselves out there in a way that allows others to really see us, despite the potential for criticism. It's a magical way of living. 


I could go on and on but I'll save that for another post. 

Now you got some reading to do!

 

 

Depression, anxiety, darkness and the light: the process of becoming

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself within a dark woods
Where the straight way was lost. 
-- Dante Alighieri

I believe there comes a point in everyone's life when you feel lost and utterly derailed. There is a  moment, a season, a year or even years, where we are being asked to let go of what is known and step into the unknown, exploring ourselves on a deeper level. Will you listen? Will you answer the call from within and walk through the door of the unknown? 


Many people don't know this about me, including some of my closest friends and family, but I've struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. I'm actually pretty sure I came out of the womb in the middle of one giant anxiety attack and it never went away. 

Its varied over the years from crippling, can't get out of bed, massive amounts of fear and tears and paralyzing stillness and worry, to feeling just numb enough to put on a fake smile and exist. I'd show up and contribute to life all the while trying my best to hide my pain from others.

I've analyzed myself a lot over the years, questioning when and where this all began  At one point I feared I suffered from bipolar disorder after someone very close to me was diagnosed with it when I was in my teens. I've never admitted that out loud to anyone. But getting honest with yourself can be hard and I'd often shut down after getting to a certain point. 

But over the last few months I've dug deeper and had an incredible shift. What I have come to realize over the last few months is that my depression and anxiety stem from a lack of self acceptance and love for who I truly am. I have spent so many years wearing various masks trying to gain acceptance and validation from everyone else.  

Through therapy and Reiki over the last few months I've learned a tremendous amount about myself and have felt a beautiful shift within. It's subtle, but incredible and different. Its like nothing I've experienced before.  

 I'd like to share my story a bit more with the hope that maybe it will help you in some way. If you need it that is. 

I was a wildly dramatic child that felt everything. I was curious and full of wonder. I felt things much deeper then most people did and to this day, still do. I naturally watched and observed people with a fine eye and often knew things about them without them even having to tell me. I could feel and pick up on their energy very quickly and would take on their emotions without knowing what was happening. I had no idea what this meant back then but learned years later that I am an empath

Growing up I regularly heard from people closest to me that I was too sensitive, dramatic and emotional. As someone who already felt incredibly different then most kids around me, I was desperate to belong and be accepted and what I heard was that this side of me was unlovable. 

I too began to view this side of myself as unacceptable and unlovable and thus, shut er' down. The problem with shutting down one side of ourselves is that we replace it with something else. We replace it with what we think others will love and accept. That something else is built out of fear, a persona that was everything a sensitive person was not; hard, stoic, moody, and angry.

You don't want me as sensitive, kind and loving, well, okay then, maybe you'll love me and give me the attention I crave this way. And that was the mask I put on. 

Now, none of this was on a conscious level mind you. And, I don't believe those who constantly told me I was too sensitive meant any harm by it. They were merely uncomfortable with it for reasons that only they may, or may not know.  However, as a child or adolescent, we are just seeking love and acceptance, we are impressionable and trying to find meaning in the world and we'll mold ourselves in any way we possibly can to get that. 

However, at some point, and I do believe this happens to everyone, our authentic self is so desperate to be seen that this facade, the masks we put on so long ago, start to feel uncomfortable. So now we are caught in that middle place, fighting the in-between of what we know is safe and what we know to be real. 

So we grow anxious and worried and fearful and confused. There is a war going on inside of us and at this point, who wins depends on if we are truly ready to accept who we are ourselves. More or less, it depends on how aware we are of the fact that we are aloud to change. We are aloud to take off the mask and be who you were born to be. 

This is terrifying at first.

When you first realize you have the right to change, to grow and evolve. It's really f*&King scary. A lot of people stay right here, unable to move forward. Believe me when I say that I know this place very well. 

At a very early age I dabbling in self-discovery and personal development because from some intuitive place, I knew this was the way to the truth. This was the way, for me, to understand myself more, to heal and grow and overcome the darkness. I was, very much, lead down this path. I'd move forward, stay there awhile, then jump back to my place of comfort. 

Over the years I'd have moments of happiness, of feeling light and alive. This was when I felt connected to myself and my decisions and my choices reflected that. However, the darkness would always find it's way back in, creeping in like a fog rolling off the sea in the early morning. I would be left wondering if this was what my life would be like. Feeling lost and confused, desperate and unfulfilled. Would happiness always be fleeting? Would I never understand why I felt this way? 

I drifted forward in life, walking around in a confused state of wondering and questions started to surface. A lot of questions. Maybe you are or have been experiencing this too?

However, I had never experienced what I went through over the last few months. I guess the only way I've come to understand how to explain it is that is was some kind of awakening. A major shift on some level. All these questions were coming at me full speed and I finally had to courage to answer them truthfully. 

Whether you choose to start answering them depends on a lot of things but one of the greatest learnings I've taken away from the past few months of healing my depression and anxiety and from living with it for years is this; YOU HAVE TO FEEL IT TO HEAL IT.  

And this means feeling into some dark places. 

Abandonment, resentment, fear, lack of acceptance, betrayal, rage, not feeling enough, failure and the list goes on. 

But this is where we often stop. Right before we start to truly feel.  I mean, who really wants to feel? As a collective whole, we do just about anything to NOT feel. Human beings are incredible at not feeling. We have alcohol, drugs, sex, caffeine, sports, social media, gossip magazines, reality TV, and so on. 

One of the most powerful conversations I had in therapy so far was about this idea of feeling my pain. I believe we don't go to that place because we are so afraid that if we do, we'll never find our way out. We'll be eaten alive by the horrible pain.  

That was my biggest fear and why I avoided a lot of my pain for years. Admitting and ultimately, accepting the truths meant I could no longer settle to live within those stories anymore. It meant that I had to drop that mask, drop the act and find a different way of existing in the world. It meant possibly discovering things about those I love most that would change our dynamic, shake up our normal and who wants to be the person who does that? 

I knew I could survive with the way things were. Even with, at times debilitating depression and anxiety, I could survive because I had done so for most of my life. But something had shifted inside of me and I knew I couldn't avoid it any longer. 

This was a HUGE awakening for me because it shined a light on why I struggled with depression and anxiety. I had spent so many years wrapped up in so much anger for never feeling accepted for who I truly was. People closest to me wanted me to be different. They were uncomfortable with me being who I truly was, sensitive and emotional and too expressive, that I drowned out one of the most beautiful parts of me for one that I thought would be more lovable.

I realized I had so much subconscious resentment for others and for myself and I was scared to let that go. I was scared to drop the act because then I'd have to drop the story I have known my whole life. If I let go of that old story and accept the real version, it means that I was going to have to let them off the hook, forgive them and myself and truly show up in the world as me, whether people like it or not.  

The potential risk, the unknown, once again, feels so scary but so did staying where I was. The  old was too uncomfortable now. I'd grown out of that mask and I just couldn't bare the thought of putting on another one.

For the first time I want people to see me for who I really am. So here I sit, naked and raw, exposed to the elements ready to see what happens next. I don't want to go back and put on those old masks. 

And here is the thing, self-discovery isn't easy. Most, if not ALL of the time, it starts with a lot of pain. We are so afraid of the pain, aren't we? We will do anything to numb out the pain, thus, staying where we are. We'd rather live with our depression, anxiety, fear, and numbness then be seen for who we really are. 

It reminds me of this quote I stumbled upon:

Transformation isn't sweet and bright. It's a dark and murky, painful pushing. An unraveling of the untruths you've carried in your body. A practice in facing your own created demons. A complete uprooting before becoming." - Vicortia Erickson. 

 

But now the fun begins my friends; the becoming. Are you ready?

 

When there are no words. a creative tantrum from a thirty-six year old.

"Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch."

-Lili St. Chow

It comes out of nowhere. Its as if in one moment, I have all the words in the world flooding my mind as I rush to get them onto the screen and then, just as quick as they come, they are gone. A title wave swoops in and destroys my brain, taking every last word with it. 

It ebbs and flows. It's seasonal. It's experiential. It's a creative spark that bursts into a flame consuming me, almost feverishly, until it's done and put out by the water of my being. 

It drives me nuts. It's annoying. I am a writer damn it. This cannot be happening to me. 

Why can't I always have words? Why can't I always connect with this higher part of my self that consumes me with those beautiful, magical, inspiring words? 

I sit and stare at the blinking curser, cursing at the screen as it taunts me, arguing with the voice within. "You were born to write these words Amanda. Only you." I hear. "What words? I don't have any freakin' words. Give me the words and I will write them. I promise. I will write the friggin' words! Whatever you want, I'll write!" I say back. "They are in you Amanda. They are always there. They are waiting" 

I roll my eyes and close my computer screen and go make food. 

"When are you going to write your book Amanda" I hear three times in one week. 

Pressure. I feel the pressure now. Now the words will never come. 

"When are you going to write the follow-up post Amanda? Don't wait too long. We are eager." 

More pressure. 

Don't you understand? That isn't how it works for me. Words aren't just there. They come, out of what feels like nowhere but they are not coming now. I broke it. 

"You didn't break it." I hear a voice say in that distant place in my mind. "You are merely in waiting. Be patient. They'll come again."

"F THIS. I'm sick of waiting. I'll move on. I will. Don't tempt me!. I'll find something else to consume this raw energy bubbling up from within. If you won't give me the words, I will find some other way of getting it out of me. I'll paint and cut and shape and dance and burn this fire deep within out into the word. If I can't write it. I will find some other way. You just wait and see. You will not waste me any longer. You just wait and see."

Still, there are no words. 

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Highest I've Ever Been {Part 1}

 

(Recently I was told by my mom that my blog posts are a little too long. Out of love, I know she wants me to keep the readers attention long enough to finish my post. My intention with blogging has always been, and always will be, more of a journal with the hopes of sharing, inspiring and above all, connecting with others. So, sometimes it means that the story takes a little longer to get out, the details, to me, are all important. So, I've decided to break this one up a bit so it's shorter, maybe you'll read all of it and while still keeping the integrity of the piece. - Here ya go Ma! Love you!)

"We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong."

It's 12:30am and I wake to the clicking sound of someone lighting the propane gas stove twenty feet from my tent. Its pitch black and cold but not nearly as cold as it soon will be as I snuggle down further into my sleeping bag. "Just a few more minutes." I say to myself. 

I roll over, knowing very well that I have twenty-five minutes, exactly, to get up, brush my teeth, get my coffee and change into my black fleece-lined running leggings which I've chosen because of their warmth, my grey swiftly tech long sleeve crew that is quick drying and surprisingly warm, and my dark grey running jacket. The one with the little thumb holes and giant hood. I make a mental note to pack my North Face down jacket and of course, my black and red checkered flannel in my pack in case I get cold. 

I've already been wearing my black Graced by Grit sports bra for the past three days and crack a smile at how uncouth I am. All of this accompanied by my new REI hiking socks, my low top hiking boots that I got before I backpacked around Mt. Hood, and of course, my green 'Be Hippy' hat. She goes everywhere with me. 

I hear Robb climb out of his tent and realize I am running out of time. It's now or never. 

"Do you really want to do this Amanda?" I quietly ask myself as I thought of all the reasons to bail out last minute, all little while lies of course. I got my period? No, girls do plenty of stuff on their moon cycle. I twisted my ankle on yesterdays short hike and it's just too painful? No, they would have been well aware of anything like that happening yesterday. I'm too sensitive to altitude? Nope, you've been acclimating for two days just fine. There are bears and mountain lions and I really do like my face. Ugh, Amanda, toughen up.  

And then the real reason starts to bubble up from deep within and I could not ignore it any longer. I'm just plain f&^king scared.

I crawl out of my warm sleeping bag and unzip the tent door making a mental note to go to the next REI sale and purchase one of my own all while simultaneously feeling very grateful for neighbors who had a small tent I could borrow.

Grabbing my headlamp, I switch on the light and navigate my way to the picnic table twenty feet away from my borrowed tent and say good morning to John and Robb who are busy making coffee as I walk past them to my car to change into my hiking attire. 

As I fumble back to the picnic table, the hot water is bubbling and the coffee is steeping and I finally give in to the fear and the excitement that I am, in fact, going to climb the tallest mountain in the lower forty-eight. 

I grab my toothbrush and walk about thirty feet away from camp, more for one last moment of reprieve then to follow the rules of camping.  I am filled with the feels that come with facing your fears; a mix of excitement, wonder and nerves coupled with a slight numbness and an overwhelming feeling that I am exactly where I need to be. That every experience, for better or worse, has lead me to this very moment. And I crack and faint smile as I think back to how it all began. 

When I was somewhere around ten years old, my dad took me up my first mountain. Tiger Mountain sits east on I-90 about twenty minutes from the home I grew up in. My dad, the epitome of fit in my small and narrow world, was beginning to train for Mt. Rainer and I thought he was nothing short of the cat's meow. 

Together, we jumped in his blue Chevy pickup truck, barreling down the road, we sang along to Randy Travis, "He wore starched white shirts buttoned at the neck, and he'd sit in the shade and watch the chickens peck. And his teeth were gone, but what the heck, I thought that he walked on water." As we drove and sang I stole sideways glances and smiled at the man who in my world, walked on water.  

I started the hike with a burst of energy, running up ahead shouting back at my dad to hurry up as my spiral strawberry blonde curls danced frantically on top of my head. I don't know why I remember my curls but they were big and everywhere and a vivid part of this memory. I also remember wearing a white shirt splattered with a mix of red, blue and yellow paint and dollops of sparkly puffy paint that matched the same colors of the regular paint. All paired with navy blue loose fitting cotton pants with an elastic waistband and white tennis shoes. Be nice, it was the late eighties, early nineties after all. 

At some point early on, I grew tired and my dad ended up carrying me on his back for a good portion of the steeper parts of the trail. Despite my exhausted effort, I was hooked. The sweet smell of vanilla scented pine trees and morning dew was like a hit of crack; intoxicating, inviting, invigorating. I was hooked and little did I know then but my soul would always fiend for more.

The quiet, which is at times almost eery, sends you into an almost meditative trace. Every noise is pronounced, every moment seems heightened and whatever thoughts are dancing around in your head and emotions in your heart are exaggerated, whether you like it or not, you feel things and think things you spend all your other time trying to ignore.

When the wind rustle through the trees or the branches creak around you, you feel it throughout your body. Ever foot step inviting more as rocks and dirt crunch beneath your feet. And the soft lullaby of the bird's who perch high above, watching, observing your every move, are forever etched in your memory. 

My heart was stolen, all those years ago, by the timeless wonder and mystery of the mountains and now by the bittersweet nostalgia that each dance in the wilderness brings, when I remember  a time when to me, he still walked on water.  

I always think of that morning as I set out on another adventure in the mountains. I always think of my dad, who  most likely unbeknownst to him, inspired this deep love, this connection to a part of myself that is the most wild and untamed, raw and inspired. It was my dad, all those years ago, who first instilled my longing, my deep and at times reckless need, to be wild and free. 

I shake the memory off as we climb into the rented maroon Kia Minivan I told Robb was a 'chick magnet.' "Girls just love dudes who drive maroon Kia minivans Robb. It screams babies." I said laughing as we sipped on our hot coffee and loosely chattered about nothing much at all.  

"The mountains are calling and I must go." I said over and over quietly to myself as we drove down the road that lead to the tallest mountain in the lower forty-eight.

I needed my latest fix. I needed to get higher then I've ever been.  

Part two coming soon...stay tune.

 

"I am willing to see things differently" -- a story of breakup, growth and understanding.

"It takes courage...to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the full pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives." - Marianne Williamson

Lately, my mornings have begun like this. At the first sign of light, my body becomes restless, twitching ever so slightly as it slowly comes out of a deep and intense dream filled sleep.  I can already tell by the lighting that it's early, probably between six and six-thirty in the morning. The downside of being a lark in a world full of owls is that no matter what time you go to bed, your body wakes with the rising of the sun.

 I shift ever so slightly in bed until I become conscious that I am, once again, awake. I lay there momentarily until I have a good grasp on how I feel. My dreams have been filled with interesting story lines lately, ones I can only imagine Freud would have a heyday with. The monsters are playing tricks with me again. Monsters that can only be stirred by heartache and loss and leaving. 

I open one eye, then the other, blinking uncontrollably as I patiently wait for them to adjust to the dim morning light. I move my body in a more direct and aware manner now, noticing how I feel. Sore and achy seems to be the norm lately, all for good reason though. Then it hits me, that undeniable feeling of heaviness that smacks me in the middle of my chest. And I remember. 

Two weeks have gone by and it's slowly starting to fade and I find myself in an interesting position. A mix of holding on and letting go. The never ending battle between the head, and the heart. 

I want to roll back over and go back to sleep, I long for the reprieve from the battle within. An eight hour break from feeling...anything. When you are a person who has finally allowed yourself to feel everything deeply, sleep becomes a welcome escape every now and then. Not that I condone numbing or escaping, I fully believe in facing your feelings head on. However, sometimes the reprieve is needed, even for just a day or two.  

In my morning fuzz, I remember the excitement of yesterday, how good I felt, how free and full of possibility. How my friend and I were talking and laughing about life's little mysteries on our bike ride. How when one door closes, it means others are waiting to open in its place. And then, in the matter of twelve hours, you can wake with that sinking feeling in your chest again, grasping for what's familiar once more. 

We want to hold on to the potential, especially when it's someone who we could see and feel something real with. When it's someone who gives you that feeling that only comes once ever so often. The chemistry.

We want to hold on to the little moments, the treasured inside jokes, the sweet somethings they do just to show they care, the mornings filled with laughter and stolen glances of admiration. You long once again for the "good morning sunshine" texts and wonder why you didn't completely cherish and appreciate them in the moment. 

As human beings, it's hard to let go of something that feels good, something our heart wants. We are in a constant tug-of-war with our resistance to change. We waver every day, between multiple feelings and extremes. We hold on to the known because we are terrified of what the unknown may bring. Even when it very well could be better for you. I am no stranger to this truth.

I shake my thoughts off and push back the covers forgetting that my four-legged companion was curled up, deep in his own dream world, at the end of my bed. Startled awake, he gives me a dirty look, one he's perfected perfectly. So much so that it feels like a tiny danger right through my heart. He jumps off the bed, running to the closed bedroom door and begins to scratch gently. A signal to me that he wants out. I really do not think people give cats enough credit for their keen ability to train humans. 

I sit up in bed and stare back at him, my dearest companion of ten years, as his quiet pawing at the door has now become a frantic mix of body slamming and deep, guttural cries. All with the occasional pause and glance back towards me to make sure I've taken notice and I'm in pursuit of doing something about it. 

"Jeeze Oliver.." I say as I throw my legs over the side of the bed scratching my tangled mix of overly processed, dry curly hair.  "Calm down. People are going to think I torture you or something. You are so stinking dramatic." I say as calming as I can, as if my tone just may ease his fears of being trapped in our bedroom. He glances back at me as if to say, "Look lady, if you don't let me out RIGHT NOW, I will destroy you and everything in this room!" And then I swear he bared his teeth and growled at me.  

Ten years. Ten years of perfected attitude. Ten years of knowing just how to get me to do what he wants. 

I stepped onto the faded brown carpet that lined my bedroom floor. "Oliver, one of these days I really hope you appreciate what you have. You could be a mangy street cat who's left to his own devices. Try that on for fun." I say with my sassiest tone as I open the door. He barrels out, running as fast as he can into the sliding glass door. I stare on in mild disbelief. "Payback." I mutter as I walk to the sliding glass door and give him the very thing he longs for; freedom. This irony is not lost on me as I reflect on my recent breakup. 

I watched as he sprints out the door, panicked and needing air, only to stop six feet away and sit on the stones that adorn the backyard patio. With his back to me, I can tell his eyes are closed as he feels the light breeze against his fur and the warm morning rays of sunlight beginning to poke through the trees that line our backyard, and I can tell he has found his peace. He finally feels free.

And it hit me; we are more alike then I've ever realized. 

The anxiety that was bubbling in my chest from the moment I woke needed to be released, it needed to be free.  

I quickly changed out of the night shirt I had wore to bed, throw on my purple leggings and a black and white tank top I find in my closet and deem clean enough to wear out in public. I throw on my green 'Be Hippy' hat, standard attire for most of my outings if I'm honest, and slip into my favorite black flip flops and head out the door, grabbing my keys and ten dollars on my way out. 

I drive to my favorite coffee shop and grabbed my black cup of inspiration and head down to walk the beach. 

Over the last few years one of my daily practices has be trying to listen to what I need and want more and convince myself of other things less. I mean, that is pretty much self-love 101, right? What does your heart want Amanda? What do you NEED right now Amanda? How are you feeling in this moment Amanda? All questions I try to infuse moment to moment, situation to situation and experience to experience.  

However, this doesn't mean it does't come without painful experiences or feelings. Not everything we need is what we want, at least on a conscious level, and not every decision makes you feel great in the moment or for the weeks that follow. However, learning to listen to yourself and trust what your intuition is telling you will always lead you to the truth. 

As I walked along the beach I observed the heaviness in my chest and feel the longing to understand. "I am willing to see things differently." I mumbled to myself. "I am willing to see things differently.

The truth is, any time something comes to an end, whether that is a romantic relationships, an opportunity we thought we really wanted, a job, a friendship or so forth, there is an undeniable pain and feeling of loss that comes with it.  A sadness, a disappointment, a longing for what was and what could have potentially been. But a long time I go I was told by a wise person to never date potential. Always trust and work with what is right in front of your face. 

Some can stuff their feelings down. I know this because I use to be incredibly skillful at stuffing myself. So good in fact that I thought I was dealing with whatever was happening but the truth was, I was stuffing. 

You numb yourself perfectly to the point where you feel...nothing. No feelings come or go. No real happiness and no real sadness. In an attempt to not feel the lows, congratulations, you now feel nothing at all. 

It will however, always resurfaces in some way, at some point, in some form, usually as some complicated mix of anxiety, anger and sadness and you will be left feeling more then if you would have just dealt with it in the first place. 

You have to deal with life head on or all those issues with continue to resurface until you do. Please believe me when I say this. You will continue to be met with the same situation, the same person, the same scenario over and over until you get to the root of why you are attracting that in the first place. This has been the greatest lesson this past year for me. 

You end a relationship with someone for a reason. Compatibility. Life goals and values. Bad timing. Betrayal. Lack of respect and communication. And sometimes something ends out of fear. Fear of being hurt, fear of the unknown, fear of growth, fear of change, fear of being challenged into a new way of existing, fear of old wounds resurfacing. Fear of never being enough for someone. 

And sometimes you don't even want the breakup but you know you have to and it takes everything in you to cut the ties and slowly, but surely, move on. Because you realize that deep within you, you want more for yourself. You deserve better. You deserve to stay true to what you know exist but needs time to manifest.  

And so, once again, you are left feeling the feels. Deeply. It's taken me a long time to allow myself to really feel an ending, no matter what that ending is. How long the relationship lasted is irrelevant to what the relationship brought you. You can experience something more deep and meaningful with someone in three months then someone you've been with for two years. It's about chemistry. It's about connection. It's about friendship. And when that is gone, it hurts. Deeply. 

When they are no longer in your life, mourning is an important part of moving on. I would advice against trying to avoid this process. I would advice against trying to fill that void too quickly with things that bring you momentary happiness or excitement. Feel. The. Feels. All of them. That isn't to say wallow in your pain. Please, surround yourself with love and laughter and happiness. Find gratitude and appreciation for those pure moments of joy. But don't try to cover up those quiet moments when you are alone, feeling the feels. 

When I was going through my divorce I was told by many people that the best way to get over someone was to "get under someone else." I know most were joking. However, I know it's a common practice. Why feel the pain when you can feel the pleasure with someone else? Multiple times in one night.  Come to think of it, you actually get a lot of really interesting advice when you are going through a divorce but that one piece has never sat right with me nor will it ever be a way I work through a break up. I need to feel the feels

As I walked the beach and repeated "I am willing to see things differently," I felt the heaviness in my chest begin to lift as something profound and vital to my evolution as a person hit me. This isn't necessarily an ending, this is an awakening. It's a loss and a gain. 

As my mom always says, people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, and when something is so short-lived, it's usually for a reason, a lesson, a quick smack up side the head to say "Amanda, seriously. LISTEN ALREADY, will you?"

I was being gifted an opportunity. I was being cracked open so I could see where I still need to heal, to grow, to learn and to "see things differently." Ultimately, I was given an opportunity  to shift perspective, to do things differently, to acknowledge damaging patterns, to understand my pain, my triggers, my fears and myself even better, and to continue to figure out how to forgive myself and ultimately, love and trust myself deeper.  And that my friends, that is a truly a gift.

Losing someone is never easy. Actually, it sucks. Plain and simple. I feel like I've lost an extremely close friend. I feel like I've lost something that meant a lot to me. I feel like I've lost something that had all the potential to be magical. A confidant, a closeness, a person I turned to. An attraction, a chemistry, a deep something.  You spend all this time with a person and then wham! In one day they are gone, no communication, no response to a momentary weakness when you send them a "I miss you" late night text. Nothing. And you are left spinning. Feeling completely abandoned. But I promise you, it's all FOR you. It's all for your growth...and theirs. 

Over a year ago I got 'wild and free' tattooed on the inside of my left bicep and six months ago I got "eudaimonia" on my rib cage, both as a daily reminder to always listen to myself, always strive to step up and live from a genuine place and always ask myself what it is I truly want. Mostly, I use it as a compass for my life. Are the decisions I make leading me towards feeling free or further away? Are certain situations in my life leaving me feeling like a trapped cat in a room where it feels like the walls are closing in on me, or do they contribute to feeling the wind on my skin and a sense of overall freedom? Are they based on true love for myself or a feeling of lack and neediness? 

So yes, breakups and loss are painful. It's not always what you really want. However, trust that if you are truly listening to yourself, life will start to unfold FOR you. If you are willing to see things differently, you will. 

 

 

 

 

Filters, perceptions and adulating -- oh my!

"Life is all about perception. Positive versus negative. Whichever you choose will affect and more then likely reflect your outcomes." -Sonya Teclai

Adulting can be really confusing sometimes. It's this sweet mix of pain and heartache and surrender, joy and growth.

Growing up I thought stepping into the adult world meant life got easier. I use to look on at all the grown ups in my life and think, "Man, I can't wait to be an adult too. Life looks way more fun when you are older."

I had high hopes, big dreams and lofty aspiration as a kid. I was going to set the world on fire with my badass adutingness (That is a word in my adult world) and I could hardly wait to get there. Being an adult is what dreams were made of, right?  

Okay, so insert scratching record player and every head turning in my direction as if I just stepped into the room wearing nothing but a velvet fedora and a bright pink sash that say, "Look at me! Look at me! I'm a mother fing gangsta!" Stranger things have happened. 

Life, as an adult, is interesting to say the least. Some view it as the most amazing part of the human experience, full of incredible opportunities, exchanges, experiences and so on. Others are practically hammering the nails in their own coffin as they slowly let the days pass them by, loathing every minute,  just waiting for it all to be over. 

The only difference? Filters, perceptions and perspective. 

Right after my divorce I was living with my brother and sister-in-law back in my home town of Issaquah, Washington and my adorably sweet and ridiculously intuitive and smart nephew would often as me out of what felt like out of nowhere, "TT, when am I going to be an adult?" It was always said as if he was missing out on some kind of awesome toy that comes once you enter adulthood. I'm serious, we'd be in the middle of watching a movie or playing with his toys and he'd just pause, look up at me and ask, "TT, when am I going to be and adult?

I always took a long, deep breath, remembering what it felt like to be a kid longing to grow up fast. I'd looked at him, smile and say, "Oh buddy, you have plenty of time to be an adult. Just be happy and have fun being a kid. You'll have plenty of time to adult"

He'd always look back at me with a questioning stare as if I was hiding some big, crazy something from him like, the Easter Bunny was in fact, really a Turtle. Sometimes you can't win with kids. Sometimes kids are way more intuitive then we give them credit for. 

I often wondered how I could persuade him into slowing down a bit and just enjoy being a kid. How, if he was't careful, before he knew it he'd be thirty-six years old, looking back on his life wondering how it went by so fast. I want to tell him that there are some really beautiful things about the naivety of being a kid and you can never go back to that time in your life and so try and drag it out as long as possible.

Sometimes, when he'd ask me, "TT, when AM I going to be an adult?" these words would momentarily flash before me: 

Bud, adulting is scary business. Really friggin' scary. You see, there are all these expectations and responsibilities and one wrong move and you can completely screw everything up. Or at least it feels that way most of the time.  

And the choices. All the friggin' choices. God, are there A LOT of decisions to make. Like, seriously man. I mean, I work way better with multiple choice questions so why can't life work that way too? Just give me a few choices, I'll work my process of elimination and viola, I'll know exactly what to do and life will feel very easy. Instead, life feels like you are constantly writing a twenty-five page abstract essay on a time limit of about five minutes. Cause that's basically how fast life goes by when you reach adulthood bud. 

You think picking out a new toy is overwhelming sweet boy? Well, just wait until you have to pick out a whole friggin' life in a world that is constantly changing full of other adults who are trying to make similar choices. It can feel dark and scary and like there are storms brewing from every directions. 

Then there are experiences that happen that are just out of your control. Heartbreak, betrayal, lies, death, illness, losing jobs, falling in love, falling out of love, realizing the person you are with just can't love you back. Mommy and daddy aren't around twenty-four seven to put a bandaid on your broken heart or hold you when you are scared of the lions under the bed. And sometimes you lie in bed at night and just cry because it all just feels like too much and all you want to do is go back to a time when your biggest worry was how the hell you are going to hide the fact that you spilt milk on the couch from your mom and dad and you come up with the brilliant idea that you'll just simply let the dog lick it up and you are proud of yourself. 

Life works it's way so deep into your cells that you start to feel yourself become jaded and rough. You are constantly in a tug-a-war, an internal battle of staying soft and open verses becoming hard and crusty with every major life experience. 

Then there are these things called responsibilities. If you aren't careful they wills start to weigh you down like a one hundred pound weight that you are required to carry around every day, all day. All a result of some choice you made in the past. Another wrong turn you took when you were merely just trying to make, what you thought, was the best decision at the time. 

Oh, and whoa, I almost forgot, people are mean. And scary. I mean, not all of them, but there are a lot of them that are because most of them are just as scared and tired as you are and they are merely taking their frustrations and fears out on you. Their shoulders are just as heavy from the weight of their own stories. 

And don't get me started on failed dreams. All those things you wanted to do, all those places you wanted to go, the wild, crazy adventures you thought you'd experience on a regular basis, a lot of them probably won't come true and you'll be left feeling disappointed, depressed and wondering if this is really what life is supposed to be about. So, buddy, there is plenty of time to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Just stay a kid as long as you friggin' can, okay? 

I'd come to after a minute, shaking off the remnants of my own fears and instead, I'd smile, take a deep breath and say, "Buddy, you have plenty of time to be an adult. Just try and enjoy being a kid as long as you can, okay?" And he'd give me a confused look as if I just told him the Easter Bunny was, in fact, a Turtle. 

And then others times, quieter, peaceful, more self-reflective and grow-inspired times, I'd look at him and think: 

Buddy, if you can, try to stay young as long as possible but pay attention now because you will learn a lot about yourself, who you are, what you want to do, your gifts to the world. If you start to listen closely now, you'll learn that the voice inside of you is actually the truth. Its like an internal compass, helping you navigate your way through life. Its the way, the truth, and the light. Unfortunately, a lot of us stop listening to it as we get older and let other things guide us.

Adulting is amazing bud. It comes with freedoms you don't have as a kid like being able to make decisions for yourself. There are choices that you GET to make as an adult that mommy and daddy make for you as a kid. You GET to choose what you want to do and who you want to be. Isn't that exciting?   

And this bud, this is very important to remember so listen closely sweet boy; life does not happen TO you but FOR you. It's easy bud, to become a victim of life's circumstances. Believe me, your TT has perfected that. We can become jaded and fearful, afraid to get hurt again, to put yourself out there once more, to be seen, especially for an introverts like us. But just keep going. Keep breaking down walls or better yet, fight hard to never put them up to begin with. No matter how afraid you are just remember that life isn't about staying trapped in a protective bubble. Life is about stepping out of your comfort zone and finding the courage to keep going, despite the disappointments, the set back, the fears, the heartache, the pain and the betrayal.

All of it is for your growth as you move through life as an adult. I'll be honest, it doesn't always feel good. Some of it is heavy stuff and almost all of it is the result of a filter or perception we've taken on, sometimes a long time ago. But you want to know one of the coolest things about being an adult? You GET to change that if you want. You have all the freedom in the world to rewrite whatever story you'e been telling yourself. 

So bud, the hard moments are really the defining moments. They don't always make sense. You may end up going through the same experience many times, that too is intended for your growth. You see, until we learn what we need to learn, until we decide to change, life does that to you. It keeps bringing you the same people (just different faces) the same experience, and the same situation, until you decide to rewrite your story, to go down a different path, and to find the courage to react differently. 

Life can be extremely mesmerizing too bud. It can suck you in like when you stand barefoot on the beach, starring down as your feet sinking into the coolness of the sand. Or like when you stand at the shoreline as the waves lap over your feet and you stare out into the endless ocean horizon and feel so full of possibility. Or maybe like when you feel captivated by the crackling embers of the amber and yellow light from a campfire. Adulting has so many moments like that too. 

Buddy, being an adult is awesome. But so is the simplicity of being a kid. Your only job right now is to have fun and be open to new things. To explore and learn, to make mistakes and learn from them. Try not to carry those mistakes with you because if you aren't careful, they will start to feel really heavy and weigh you down later on in life. Learn from them, then brush them off and let them go. Don't let them become part of your story, don't let the cloud your filters and shape your perceptions. 

There will be seasons of pain and sadness. It will come and go, ebb and flow without any warning. If you can, accept that and ride the wave of feelings that come with it knowing that, as grandma always tells me, "This too will eventually pass and you will feel joy and happiness once again. Just give it time."  

And yes, there will be seasons of joy bud and man does this feel good. It kind of feels like every day for you now, as a kid. You wake up so excited for what the day will bring. You jump out of bed, take a big stretch and wonder what amazing thing you will experience today. You know that feeling bud, when we put on our rain boots and go on a walk and jump in puddle after puddle and we laugh and laugh until our bellies ache and are cheeks hurt from that incredible feeling we feel? Those days feel a lot like that. 

Life is a mix of those seasons little man, but always remember this; without the storms and the rain, there wouldn't be any puddles to jump in. 

Then I'd give him a smile and say, "See bud, there is a lot of great things about being an adult, but if you can, enjoy the experience of being a kid." And he'd still look back at me with his confused and questioning stare as if I told him the Easter Bunny was in fact, a Turtle.   

So which one is the truth? Which filter do you walk around with? The first? The second? A mix of both? I don't know. That isn't for me to decide for you. But I hope you think long and hard about the way you view life, the world around you and realize that perception is everything. And it's okay if sometimes you see the world as both because we all have good days and bad days, joyful seasons and sad ones. We would never fully appreciate the happiness that comes from the good times if we hadn't experience the bad ones. 

And it is ridiculously important to remember this one very things;  our filters create our present reality but what we see isn't always the truth. Sometimes we have to take a deep breath, step back and try to look at each situation, each experience, each person from a different perspective, a different angle, a different lens. We have to remember that life isn't happening TO us but FOR our greatest growth as human beings. 

Our filters and perceptions may not actually be the truth and the reality is, we should all smile at the fact that the Easter Bunny very well may in fact, be a Turtle to someone. 

 

Am I Insane? On Daring to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

"a comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there."

Several years ago I remember hearing about a workout called Insanity. At the time, I also remember saying, "why the hell would anyone want to do a workout called Insanity? I'm good, thanks." I also, once upon a time, said this exact same thing about Triathlons. See a theme? 

I have this funny theory that most of the time, the very thing you say you can not do or don't want to do is actually the very thing you want to be doing. Looking back over my life, that has shown up pretty consistently. 

So, when I signed up to do the 21 Day Fix Extreme challenge in February I was like, they all look great, except Insanity and Insanity Max 30. I'm good, I don't need to do those. 

However, recently I've been wondering why I am so resistant to some things. Why is it easy for me to challenge myself with one thing but not something else? So, like everything else in my life, I started exploring it further. I started analyzing it. 

What I discovered was that most of the things I say I can't do I actually want to do but I'm scared of not being able to do them well. I like to do things well. I'm a Virgo, we are perfectionists. I mean, have you seen my handwriting? So, I like to be good at things. The problem with stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new things is, chances are, you aren't very good at it to begin with. On top of that, for a long time I really disliked not knowing what I was doing and how it appeared to others. So, what it all boiled down to was this idea that I had to be perfect. 

And we all know how I feel about perfection. BOR-ING.

However, I thought I had to be great at things, even when I had never done them before which prevented me from trying a lot of new things. Eventually however, I realized that this expectation I had put on myself was unrealistic. I was never going to live the kind of life I dreamed of if I kept putting unrealistic expectations on myself. Obviously, on a deeper level, I was doing this intentionally. Self-preservation. If you keep doing what you already know you are good at, if you never push yourself and stay in your comfort zone, then you will always feel safe and never really grow. 

When I realized that what I truly crave is a sense of freedom I knew that without trying new things, I'll never find find that feeling that I long for. I think I began this journey years ago before I was fully aware of what I was even doing but once you are conscious of it, it's hard to continue living a life tightly wrapped in your comfort zone. 

So, as my triathlon training was coming to an end, I knew that I had to continue pushing myself and my body and since I'm all about facing my fears head on, I knew what I had to do. 

Insanity. 

I actually opted to Insanity Max 30. The focus is more on finding your edge for 30 minutes. You push yourself at 100% in each exercise until you've maxed out then you write that down and start over. You may not make it through the full 30 seconds of each exercise which is a hard thing for me to wrap my head around. I feel like I'm quitting.  Which feels uncomfortable to me. And when you go to the max you are pushing yourself to your limit and it makes you feel like you are going to throw up and I hate feeling like I'm going to throw up when I'm working out. However, one of the things I've noticed about myself is that I always do my cross training/tabata style workouts at about 80%. I rarely push myself fully, even with the 21 Day Fix Extreme, and I want to know what if feels like to be fully in and 100% committed. 

I've also realized I'm definitely more of an endurance person. I think this is why I do well at things like triathlon. I can go for extended periods of time without stopping and I feel like I'm accomplishing a lot of my goals. I don't like feeling like I'm quitting, especially when it comes to working out. 

As I write this I am on day four of Instanity Max 30. I started on Wednesday, June 1st with the goal of doing 30 days but in total transparency and because I ALWAYS want to be honest with you, I missed Friday because I didn't plan well. My brother and sister-in-law are in town and we drank more then I care to admit on Thursday night and I wasn't feeling too well Friday. And then there is the fact that I've been dating someone new and it's so fun and different and we like to spend a lot of time together and sometimes when that happens, you kind of get excited and want to spend your time with them instead of working out. However, those are excuses and I've committed to this for 30 days and because I always want to live my life with integrity, I'm extending this challenge by one day so it will end on July 2nd. That means that it's coming with me to Thailand on June 20th. Jet lag and all, I'll be fitting in my Insanity while on vacation. No excuses. I'm extending to July 2nd because I leave for Thailand on the 20th and get there on the 22nd so I skip a day.  Trippy! 

I plan on being much better about documenting this challenge. I had every intention of doing so when I did 21 Day Fix Extreme but didn't. I got bronchitis during it and although I still did the workouts, I didn't do the challenge 100%. 

On top of this, tomorrow, Monday, June 6th, I'm not drinking until Thailand and will be living a very clean life. 

No sugar
No alcohol
No coffee or much caffeine in general. I'm allowing myself my Green Dandelion Tea
Nothing that is inflammatory (no or limited nightshades)
No dairy
No soy (which I try and stay away from in general.)

So, LOTS of smoothies. I'll be drinking my daily superfood smoothie. Lots of vegetables and lean protein. 

I feel like I need to reset my body. As I've mentioned before, I have Hashimotos, an autoimmune disorder and most of the above trigger and cause a flare up anyway.  I don't really drink that much in general but have been more so lately which means I haven't been eating the best because when I drink I just feel crummy the next day and eat more of the things I usually wouldn't eat like sugar (the natural kind), and dairy. 

So that is that my friends. Here is to stepping outside of your comfort zone and doing things that scare you!

And if you have been following me for a while, you know that I don't like making things about how my body looks. After spending so many years focused soley on what my body looked like, I never want to be obsessed with that again. And I need to be careful to not trigger myself back into old behaviors. I've had to get very honest with myself and just because I have overcome my eating disorder and body dysmorphia doesn't mean I never could go back there. So my focus is not on how I look but about how I feel, from the inside out.

Some of you will look at my before photo below and probably think she she doesn't have anything to loose and I don't. This IS NOT about losing weight for me. This is about feeling strong and healthy. Cleaning up my diet and doing Insanity Max 30 has nothing to do with me feeling like I need to lose weight. I don't. I don't even really need to tone up right now. This is 100% about pushing and challenging myself mentally and physically and doing something that scares me and feeling energized and healthy again.  

This is about me connecting back to my why which has a lot to do with the fact that at one time I was lying in a hospital bed unable to move, with my stomach cut open and a major infection trying to take over my body. It's about the fact that I am closer to forty then thirty and it's so easy to use that as an excuse as to why I can't do some of the things I push myself to do. Because age is just a number, it does not limit or define us. And most importantly, it's about helping you realize that if I can do these things, so too can you. I promise. 

 

 

 

 

The Funny Thing About Fear and why you should do the very thing that scares you most.

"Fear is the brains way of saying there is something important for you to overcome."


As I walked slowly into the water, my mind raced with all the possibilities. What if the current pulls me out too far and I can't get back in? What if a Sea Lion thinks I'm kind of cute and gets too close for comfort? What if the seaweed wraps itself around my leg and pulls me under? What if, on some off chance, a hungry Great White lost it's way and ended up north in La Jolla Cove, at the EXACT same time I pass the outlet and enter open waters? I grew up watching JAWS, I'm well aware this doesn't fair well for the human. 

My mind was racing. I had spent the early morning drive down to La Jolla from Encinitas trying to talk myself out of the open water swim I had committed to a few days prior. I don't NEED to do this. I'll be fine no matter what. I'll just take a gander on race day. I mean, I AM trying to take more risks and live more adventurously. I could turn around right now and send a text saying I woke up feeling sick. 

Sometimes I find myself thinking this whole living fearlessly thing is a joke. I mean, why not just play it safe? Why not stay tightly wrapped in my safe cocoon where it's warm and cozy? I know what to expect. I know the outcome. I know I will survive. Maybe I could find happiness living a life only dipping my toes in the water?

I know however, deep inside this isn't true. I know that I had already spent so may years living a life that felt safe yet feeling horribly miserable inside. I know that right on the others side of fear, is truth and the truth is, I need to live fearlessly in order to fully live. 

"I just need you to know I'm absolutely terrified right now." I said to Adriana as I approached her car. I met Adriana a few days prior when I went to her swim and sporting shop in downtown La Jolla to rent my Tri wet suit. She told me that she hosts free daily open water swims and invited me to go with her whenever I wanted. I knew that was probably a good idea for me to in the water before race day, More then anything though, I knew that the reason why I hadn't thus far wasn't for lack of time but because I was scared. So I did what has become a regular habit for me and said yes before I thought it through. 

She looked back at me and cracked a crooked smile, "You should be." 

I laughed with the hopes that it would momentarily ease my fears. I stood at the railing and looked out at the sea. "Yeah, she's mighty big and powerful. She's got a whole lot of sass, even more then me! But, I suppose if I respect her, maybe she'll do the same in return." I said in a half statement, half question as we headed down the stairs towards the water. 

"Exactly." Adriana replied. "We are just going to go really slow. We can stop and turn around whenever you want."  Nice and slow. Got it. 

I scanned my surroundings and watched the abnormally large amount of Sea Lions snuggling on shore, flopping around on each other and crying out in their deep guttural screams, telling me, what I imagined was, "DON'T GO IN THE WATER!" 

"I kind of just want to go join them." I said in my dry, sarcastic tone as I pointed to the baby Sea Lions frolicking on the shoreline. "They look fun." I gave Adriana a cheeky grin and looked back at the ocean. I took a deep breath and a step forward as the water lapped up my legs. I continued walking in further as I pulled my goggles over my eyes and with a whisper said, "Fuck it" and dove in. 

As we swam to our first check in point, I focused on my breath. "Just breath Amanda. Let go. Trust." Something that has never been easy for me but has become a regular mantra in my daily life.  At first I found it hard to look around beneath the water. I focused on taking a breath each time I turned my head up towards the sky. There it is, it's right there. Comfort, safety.

When I did Lavaman, the olympic distance triathlon on the Big Island back in 2009, we had the privilege of listening to one of the top Ironman competitors, whom for the life of me I can't remember his name. What I remember most about his talk was when he discussed the swim. He said that whenever you feel yourself start to panic, whenever you feel frightened or scared, turn your head towards the sky and you'll find comfort.  

I felt my heart rate come down as I glided along the water. "I can do this." I thought. "I AM doing this." I corrected myself. And then a thought occurred to me,  I realized I was missing out on half the fun of what I was doing by letting fear consume me. "It's not very often that we get the opportunity to see what's below the surface Amanda." I said to myself. "Open your eyes and look." 

Something magical happens when we look at our fears straight in the face. They don't seem so scary anymore. When we begin to strip away the stories that we've built up around those fears, we start to see the truth; that we have made them into the very thing they are. 

I scanned the murky waters and sang Mary Had a Little Lamb to myself, another tip I picked up at Lavaman. Pick a song and sing it as you swim. It calms you down just as looking at the sky does. Why Mary Had a Little Lamb, probably has something to do with the fact my mom used to sing it to us at bedtime when we were little. It was comfort.  

As we approached our goal, the small round white buoy about a quarter of a mile out, I reach out and slapped my hand on the bobbing circle and smiled as I turned back and looked at the shoreline. We sat there treading water as we looked back at what we had just accomplished. 

"I wish everyone could see this." I said to Adriana. "More then anything, I wish people knew that right past fear is the most incredible thing ever -- that feeling of really living. The belief that anything is possible" Adriana smiled at me and we headed back towards the shore.

As I drove home, full of hope and excitement and a readiness to take on the world, I thought about the things that still scare me and plotted and planned how I was going to overcome them. 

Some of the greatest things we will ever do in our lives often happen right past our biggest, deepest fears. The interesting thing is, once we do that very thing we are scared of, we realize it wasn't as big of a deal as we made it out to be. We can get so consumed with the what if's and playing it safe that we miss out on a lot of magic and wonder beneath the surface.  

I thought about some of the other fears I've been holding on to, ones that are deeply ingrained in me.  I got really curious as to why I find myself craving protection and safety from the very things I want most and wandered off into the dreamy world of fantasizing about what it would be like to have the very things I want. Then I thought about how I would move past the fear and into creating the reality I want.

I want to live a life that feels aligned with the truth that is in the deepest part of my soul and I never again want do something because I feel this need to fit in or be 'normal.' I want to run with the wild and brave and have the confidence to stand up for and pursue my dreams and do what I feel called to do, even if it triggers my own and other's fears. 

I want to speak my truth and live it with the deepest sense of integrity. I've always believed that actions speak louder then words and I hope my words always are aligned with my actions. And I hope my actions are based on living fearlessly and being brave. However, in order for me to do all of this, I have to identify my fears and get really comfortable with them and that isn't always easy. 

I realized that trying new things isn't the issue for me. Looking at that kind of fear is the easy part for me. I'll always be jumping into the next big thing. A 22 mile day hike up Mt. Whitney with a 6500 foot elevation gain? No problem. Sign me up. A half Ironman? Sure! Why not! Traveling to unfamiliar cultures and navigating my way around? Yes, please! 

As I drove home I realized that the fear that really holds me back from truly living isn't the kind that comes with taking the risk of swimming in the depths of the dark waters of the ocean but rather it stems from being frightened of navigating the depths of my heart and bravely acknowledging past pain and hurt, and choosing forgive and move forward into vulnerability anyway.  What really prevents me from living the life I truly dream of has less to do with trying new things and everything to do with feeling scared of whats lies inside of me. 

I'm reminded of this quote by Marianne Williamsome. 

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us."

And never have these words meant more to me then once I discovered the missing piece of the puzzle of my fears. I'm not frightened of doing the physical things; big, brave and courageous things that push my body in crazy ways. What I've come to learn is that my biggest fear is I'm terrified, absolutely frightened, of being seen. Really, truly, deeply seen.

 

I know I will always continue doing the big and risky things like climbing mountains and swimming in dark waters and pushing my body to it's limits but the fear I need to face now leaves my breath staggered and my heart racing. It leaves me feeling vulnerable and naked and grasping for air. 

This fear is its own beast and one I have little experience with. It's navigating dark open waters of a different kind and leaves me feeling like I can't catch my breath. 

I know however, that until I can face this fear head on, I'll never truly live an authentic existence. I know part of my purpose is right past this fear. My deepest fear is never allowing myself the opportunity of being open and vulnerable. My deepest fear is that I'll never fully let down my guard with another and let them love me. My deepest fear is that I won't let those that care about me in all the way. My deepest fear is that I'll live behind the protection of my computer and the words I write and share on paper and never be able to speak them in person. My biggest fear is the pains of my past will continue to haunt me and run on repeat in my mind, convincing me that I will never be enough. My deepest fear is that I'll one day take my last breath and feel the disappointment that I let labels and identities run my life instead of allowing my light and love from deep within seep out and be shared with the world. 

That is what my deepest fears really look like. 

There is however, a greatness here as I share this with you and that is I now know the truth and once you know the truth and you have shared it out loud, it's almost impossible to forget. It's almost impossible to live life unaffected by what you've learned. 

 I have come to a reckoning I have never come to before and as scary as these waters are to swim, I have to take the chance. I have to bravely move forward, knowing that moving past these fears will open up a world of magical wonder of it's own kind. It may not be easy but I also now know that at any time, all I have to do is turn my head and look towards the sky and breath. But I must keep moving forward. 

I can do this too. I AM doing this.   

And here begins the greatest journey I will ever take. One that involves peeling back those walls I spent so many years building up. 

Who will join me?

An Old Fashion Girl's Thoughts on Dating, on pain and growth and her happily ever after.

Ah, yes. This post.  Here's a little warning: it's long(er).

The Backstory

As we drove North on I-405, I sat in the front seat as my pregnant sister-in-law squeezed in between my niece and nephew in the back of their Ford Escape. My older brother sipped his latte and they talked with the kids about the nature of our drive north. Trying to explain to a four and two year old that grandpa is now in heaven with Jesus is like trying to explain how babies are made. Both awkward, confusing and a delicate dance of deciding how much to share. And then your four year old nephew asks, "when am I going to heaven with Jesus?" And your heart crumbles just a little. 

It was May 18th and I had been back in Seattle for only a few days. I was settling in to my new life, setting up my home living with my older brother and sister-in-law, niece and nephew. I was also back in the same town I grew up in and my life all of the sudden felt like a made for TV movie. 

It was the day of my grandpa's memorial service who passed away almost a month earlier, the same week I decided to leave my husband. My cat, the only thing that made me feel someone normal in this new world I was navigating, had been missing for 15 hours, and it would have been my third wedding anniversary. I sighed, releasing the heavy breath I had been holding on to as I gazed out the window watching the forest green pines pass by at rapid speed. I focused on the afterglow, that stream of light you see when moving at fast speeds.

I thought about the day ahead, the inevitable questions, the comments, the sympathetic looks, and I knew that all it would take was just one and I would crumble. I prayed that I could hold it all together.  

We stepped into the church and were all a little overwhelmed by the outpouring of people who came to pay their respects to my grandfather. He was a man who dedicated himself to serving his community and it showed. I plastered on a fake smile and reminded myself that this was about celebrating the wonderful and hilarious person that was my grandpa. However, at any time, I could always use my niece or nephew as an excuse to step away. I eyed the vacant nursery room full of toys and books and planned my potential escape, hiding away in a room full of giggles, toy trains and Bernstein Bears Books. 

The service was a beautiful tribute to my grandpa and for the first time, I felt relief from my own pain by celebrating his memory. After the service, we gathered in the room adjacent to potluck. As I walked down the dimly lit hallway I coached myself for all the possible outcomes, "This is it Amanda. Just get through this and you can head home and lie on the couch with Henry and Kate and watch Thomas the Train. Everything will be fine." 

I did my best to avoid, turning conversations around to focus on the other person but somewhere inside I knew it was inevitable. And I know people meant well. It's an awkward situation to be in really. They are saying and doing what they think will help, offering up any words that will potentially make all of this easier. What I really wanted was for them to say nothing or to just say, "I know this sucks. I'm sorry." Instead, I was met with the expected:

"There are so many amazing men out there Amanda."

"Honey, there are plenty of fish in the sea,"

"He doesn't know what he's losing. What a jerk!" 

"You'lI meet the right person when its time."

I politely excused myself, walking as fast as I could to the double doors at the back of the church cafeteria, picking up my pace until I was jogging to the playground where Henry was playing with my bonus dad. I knew I could find some reprieve with them. I knew it would be all talks of Thomas and dinosaurs. No divorce. No dating. No men. No eventually. 

 I sat on the swing watching Henry squeal with excitement as he repetitively slide down the slide and for a few moments I was able to escape the thoughts that at some point, I would have to navigate that deep sea with all those colorful fish once again.

But for now, I pumped my feet back and forth as the swing took me higher and higher and Henry's giggles temporarily filled the cracks in my heart.  


Two Years Later

A lot has changed in the world of dating since I was last on the market. It seems to me, that dating had become an interesting and complex game of "online" cat and mouse. There was a time, back in my early twenties, that I tried online dating. Back then it was only Match.com and eHarmony. The ladder felt a little too intense for me at the time, and I gave Match a go. I met a few really great guys and ended up dated one with a lot of potential. However, that was right before all my surgeries and I tried to be in the relationship as I was going through everything but in the end, realized I had nothing to give at the time and ended it to his disappointment. 

This was eleven years ago and a time when online dating wasn't really something you discussed openly. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me, like I was awkward and lacked normal social skills that were necessary to meet men. Which was partially true, I'm notoriously awkward when it come to flirting and showing someone I'm actually interested in, that I am, in fact, interested in them. 

However, in just six short years since I was last on the market, online dating has become rather mainstream and culturally accepted. It almost feels expected of you when you are single. Check almost any single persons phone and it's covered with apps like Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, Match, eHarmony, OK Cupid, Chemistry.com, Christian Mingle, JDate, Farmersonly.com...and trust me, the list goes on and on. As a single person, you start to feel that if you are not connected to several of them at once, you are possibly missing someone. Even worse, you are possibly missing THE ONE. I mean, I did love living on a farm. Just saying. (I'm kidding. I am not on Farmersonly.com)

When I initially moved to San Diego, I was ten months post split and felt the self-inflicted pressure to start dating again. That and the fact that I found out my ex was in a full-blown relationship, I begrudgingly joined Tinder and Bumble. However, since I was new here, and can be somewhat awkward and shy, I tried to look at it as good way to meet new people. Even if they were all men.  Within the first few weeks I meet two really great guys and dating both of them briefly. However, both ended after just a few weeks as I came to the realization that I was absolutely not ready to date.

I had spent the better part of my first year divorced running from one thing to the next, and found myself, for the first time ever, with this new feeling of wanting to be alone. This was rather confusion for someone who spent the better part of her twenties looking for that one. And when I say better part of I mean ALL of my twenties. 

 But since I was fully committed to learning and growing from my split, I listened to the need for solitude and took a vow of celibacy and dedicated myself to the time it would take to explore my feelings. I knew dating and those apps would only cause a distraction from working this process. 

So I took the apps off my phone, put some other things I was pursuing on hold and allowed myself to just feel the wave of those, at times, obnoxious, yet necessary emotions. And it sucked. I'm serious. I now fully understand why so many people run from their pain. It's quite literally the worst, most confusing and uncontrollable feeling ever. At least with physical pain, like when you cut yourself or break a bone, you know there is an ending in site. You know that pain is brief and temporary. Emotional pain is being thrown into the unknown. There is no timeline, no guidelines, no bandaid or stitches to speed up the healing process. Just waiting, and waiting, and waiting, hoping, that eventually, you'll make it out on the other side and feel like yourself again. 

I realized though, that it is a necessary part of healthy adulting. Dealing with pain that is. I knew that if I truly wanted to show up in the world, and eventually, the dating world again healthy, I had to come to understand my habits and patterns which meant I was going to have to get down and dirty with the shits of my past. I had to come to an understanding. I had to figure out why I felt so unworthy of a healthy, loving, kind, compassionate, trustworthy, loyal, funny, and wonderful man. The man I had always dreamed of. 

This doesn't mean that I didn't get distracted by a guy or two (or three). Old habits die hard, right? As much as I wasn't looking to date, I felt like I kept getting tested to see how I was progressing. There were a couple of guys I met in "real" life during this time that I thought I wanted to get to know and see if there was any chemistry. They showed interest, one even asked me out, the old fashion way, by calling me on the phone which blew my mind. However, he ended up meeting someone else while on a vacation prior to our actual date and felt like he wanted to pursue that. This has actually happened to me way more then I care to admit. I also happen to be the girl who a guy dates right before he ends up meeting the one he marries. This may have contributed to my awkwardness over time. 

 That experience, though, brought up more of those shitty feelings. Feelings of unworthiness, of acceptance, of never being 'enough' and I again realized I needed to continue to put dating and men on hold because what I've come to discover is that when you are in an emotionally unhealthy place you exude a smell that repels the healthy ones and you end up attracting the very thing you don't want...the unhealthy male version of yourself. 

So I dove into some creative outlets and just went back to giving myself more time and allowed more of those shitty feelings to come up. This is right about the time that Adele's hit single, Hello came out. Good Lord that woman knows how to puncture my heart in the best, and worst, kind of way. The first time I heard this song I found myself sobbing uncontrollably on my living room floor. I mean, "I'm in California dreaming of who we use to be..." I'm pretty sure she wrote that song with me in mind. 

Those tears were only the beginning though. It was like an emotional detox. It was going to feel worse before it felt better. I was dealing with the pain, the pain of betrayal, of expectations never met, of loss, the death of my 'old fashion, happily ever after.' And it hurt. It hurt bad. 

So I began to explore this hurt and while talking with a friend, she made an interesting observation about something I was saying. "I really don't think it has anything to do with him anymore Amanda" she said matter of fact. "It seems, to me, that it has everything to do with a lifetime of feeling unworthy and you just keep attracting men that are going to help you perpetuate this story." 

"Yeah, I know" I said with a sign. 

I already knew this. In the deepest part of my gut, I knew that I was actually the one that needed to change. That I had spent a lifetime trying to FIND someone that would make me feel complete, make me feel whole and worthy but the reality is, Jerry Maquire had it all wrong, YOU don't complete me...only I CAN complete me. And for the first time I saw the beauty in that. Only I can heal these wounds. Only I can fill those holes with love and kindness and accepting my messy, unruly imperfections. 

So this lead me to explore more of that. I got really curious with feelings that came up. I'd ask myself WHY a lot and I would just keep digging until I got some kind of answer, even it if was painful. 

And this is when I came to realize why so many avoid the pain. We live in a world that says feeling that pain is wrong. That we have to be strong and brave and courageous and that means we have to be void of any feelings other then ones that feel good. But without the pain, I'm not sure we will ever really know ourselves fully. 

I did this for a while, exploring the pain. And then one day I finally saw a light. Well, I didn't actually SEE a light but I felt lighter. I felt like I understood why I tend seek out a man who will save me and I realized that IS NOT what I want. I don't need or want to be saved. I want a partner. Someone who has his life and who respects that I have mine, and together, we share  adventures, laughter, vulnerability, passion and love, but know that we are perfectly capable and happy exploring this alone too. 

I had a good grasp on where I was going emotionally and had worked through a lot of pain. I had finally started shedding the dead skin of my past and was ready. Ready to get curious about dating again. 

So in January, after a long discussion with my roommate about how online dating is totally and 100% acceptable now, I connected back into Tinder and Bumble. Right away I met a guy and we spent a little time getting to know each other, went on a date and he was nice but for the first time, I listened to my gut when it screamed nope, this isn't it. There wasn't Chemistry. It was good on paper but not something I wanted to pursue any further. Chemistry, the kind where you just want to spend hours talking with someone getting to know them through laughing and flirting and stories and when its time to say good-bye, you find it hard to peel yourself away because there is just so much more to know. That is what I want. 

And then I found that chemistry a few weeks later with a roamer, a gypsy of sorts, a vagabond, a free spirit and he told me right away he wasn't looking for anything. And I fell back into old behaviors of convincing myself I was fine with that. See, old habits die hard.  I should have turned away then but I was pulled in by intrigue and chemistry and the old fashion belief that anything is possible.  We spent two days together and then he drove off, taking the possibility with him.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretty disappointed, however, one of the best pieces of advice my mom ever gave me, something she actually learned from Oprah, was that people will show you who they are and where they are right away. It's your responsibility to believe them and not try to convince and manipulate otherwise.  

The realization I took away from that experience was actually pretty wonderful. It reminded me that the partner I hope to one day meet loves and values adventure and wanderlust just as much as I do. He knows how to treat a women. He knows the difference between "hanging out" and taking me on a date. And believes that I deserve dates. He has manners and perseverance and intrigue in pursuing me. He seeks the same kind of unconventional freedom that I do yet neither one of us will want to drive away from the potential. We will both be curious enough to lean in, even just a little. 

And more then anything, what I've taken away from all of this, this entire experience, every single part, from the pain of exploring my feelings after divorce to embarking on this new socially acceptable way of meeting a potential mate, is this new and intriguing peace with being happy alone.

What once felt like a personal defect, for once feels like a blessing. I know that no one will complete me. No somebody is going to come along on his white horse and save me and give me my happily ever after. Only I can really create that for myself. 

For the first time ever, whether I'm single or in a relationship, bares no weight on my sense of worthiness. It no longer dictates whether or not I live my adventure fully, or wait for someone to do it with.  For the first time, I feel truly excited about my own future, my own dreams, my own adventure. I'm excited to continuing building a life that feels truthful to me.

I am hopeful that, at some point, I'll meet a man that compliments my dreams, my desire for adventure and laughter and comfortable mutual ease. And we will add to each others lives but all the while, continue creating our own. 

That, to me, is happly ever after. 

The End. 

Vegan Chocolate and Peanut Butter Triffle

So I'm leading a clean eating challenge right now and I also happen to be about to get my moon cycle which brings out this side of me I have little, to no control over. She's edgy, extremely sassy and knows what she wants and will do just about anything to get it. There is no reasoning with her. 

And yesterday she wanted chocolate and custard, two of her biggest food weaknesses. If you took her out to dinner and there was any kind of custard on the menu, she'd be done for.  Which essentially means I'd be done for. 

But I've learned that I can trick her into thinking she's eating something decadent and sweet when in fact, she's really eating something that is a better alternative. It's still decadent and you probably don't want to eat the whole jar, but you can at least satisfy the beast. She's none the wiser though and as long as she's happy, we are all happy.

If you ever happen to meet her, her name is Mandy. And this is what I made for her yesterday. She was quite content with it. Phew. 

Vegan Chocolate and Peanut Butter Triffle

What you need:

1.5 scoops of Vegan Chocolate Shakeology
2 cans of Organic Coconut milk (chilled in refrigerator)
1/2 cup organic peanut butter
Shredded coconut
Fresh or frozen blueberries to garnish
Small glass jars. 

To make: 

1. Open chilled cans of coconut milk and scoop out the solid cream into two separate bowls. You can hold on to the liquid for smoothies!

2. In the first bowl, add the Vegan Chocolate Shakeology and mix with coconut cream until smooth and silky. Do the same with the peanut butter and coconut cream in the second bowl.

3. In one of your small glass jars, start layering your triffle. Add a layer of the chocolate mix on the bottom, then the peanut butter mix, then a think layer of shredded coconut and keep going till you reach the top. Top off with your blueberries. 

There really is no strict method. It will probably be enough for 2-3 small mason jars but that depends on how much you eat as you are making it. Ha! Or is that just me? 


 

 

The Struggle is Real - Thoughts On Aging Gracefully with saggy boobs

"there is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. when you learn to tap into this source, you will truly have defeated age."

- sophia loren

For a really long time I thought I was never going to age. Seriously. I thought that I was going to be the one person that skipped the inevitable, and remain the youthful version of myself forever. I am not kidding here. 

I'm fortunate to have genes that grace me with a somewhat youthful look and leave me looking at least six years my junior. However, they led me down a road that confused me into believing I would be saved from the inevitable truth; that we all will grow old. Five months shy of thirty-six, I often get met with the wide-eyed looks of surprise and confusion when I correct someone who thinks I'm in my mid to late twenties. Flattered I am, but I often wonder if that has more to do with my, at times, introverted and immature nature, rather then actually looking younger. 

As I see it when looking in the mirror, the years are written all over my face. Battle scars from a life well lived, hard lessons learned and years of running "wild and free" in the sun, slathered not in sunscreen but baby oil, as I told myself, "I'll just deal with it when I'm older. Ha ha ha" I guess the joke is on the older version of me now. 

 I have aches and pains in places I use to roll my eyes at when my mom would complain of similar ailments and I find myself typing in "anti-aging night cream" in the Amazon search bar more often then I care to admit. My boobs, once perky and youthful, are slowly working their way south and I have images of them swaying closer to my belly button then my actual chest, sometime in the near future. And I've now taken to smoothing out the "ruffness" on my face with the more then occasional plucking of dark, course rouge stray hairs. I can't believe I just admitted that to you. The struggle is real. 

And then, there is dating which I think I'll reserve for an entire post of its own, however after being married and thinking my life was going down a certain path and now, navigating the dark waters of dating in an online dating world, where there is something more shiny and youthful and new around every corner, I find myself drifting off into thoughts of my fifties living in a little cottage by the sea with my litter of fur children and shelves of books to keep me company. All with the occasional visit from my niece and nephews. Someone has to look out for me when I'm older and they love their TT. 

This my friends, is aging gracefully. 

The funny thing is, I really do love aging. I was always wanting to hang with the adults when I was younger. I preferred real conversation over superficial talks of clothes and trends. I preferred curling up in my bed on weekends hanging out with characters in books to raging parties where everyone tried to act older then they really were. That doesn't mean I didn't succumb to it all, I was, after all, an insecure and impressionable youth. 

However, I was young and did things because I desperately wanted to feel,"normal." Whatever that means. But I wouldn't want to go back in time for anything. Sure, I wouldn't mind if the girls would solute me in the mirror rather then warm my waste line, but all jokes aside, I really love the person I am becoming as I step into this new chapter of my life. 

I find myself shedding old stories of what my life is supposed to look like and taking more risks as I become more aligned with the life I actually want.

I want to feel good from the inside out. 

And what is most alluring about aging gracefully is this unusual newness of starting to not giving a f$%K what others think. That is a newness that I find intriguing. That is something I've never experienced before. 

This isn't to say that I don't want to feel my best or I'm just throwing in the towel on working out. I think as we work on our insides, our outsides should match. As I grow into the adult I want to be, I want an outer shell that can support her. And so its give and take. Its balance. It's accepting that I can't change my past but I can shape my future. 

An old friend (no pun intended. We've literally been friends since age 20) and I were talking on the phone yesterday when the topic of aging came up. I mentioned how strange it was, the day I realized I was no longer that youthful twenty-something, and was actually closer to forty then thirty. We started laughing as she confessed that occasionally she walks by a mirror and sees her mother and how it sends her into fits of panic. "Man, where did the time go?" we laugh. And then we laugh even harder because we just said, "Man, where did the time go?" as we confess how we promised ourselves we'd never say that and start talking about all the other things we promised we'd never say, yet now find ourselves saying all the time. 

Aging is an interesting and extremely humbling experience. When I was living with my brother and sister-in-law, Henry, my five year old nephew would often ask me, "TT, when am I going to be a grown up?" and I'd always respond by saying, "Henry, you have plenty of time to be a grown up. Just be a little kid right now." 

But it got me thinking, we spend so much time when we are younger rushing to grow up and yet, here I am, "All grown up" and I can't help but wish that time would slow down, just a little bit, so I can catch my breath and really take it all in. 

As that cliche saying goes, "Life is short." 

And then all of this gets me thinking; man, life IS short so why do I waste so much time on things that don't matter? Like my sagging boobs and reading reviews on anti-aging cream on Amazon. And caring what others think. And fear of trying new things. And the list goes on. 

You can't erase your past and maybe that is what I'm trying to do with slathering on creams and lotions that tout gimmicks of restoring you to your youthfulness? There is no going back so you might as well buckle up and enjoy the ride going forward, saggy boobs and all. 

Aging gracefully, to me, is more about accepting your past and focusing on the here and now. Yes, another cliche but you gotta think that all these cliches have something to them, right? I mean, when they were originally quoted, you have to believe that who ever came up with said cliche actually, truly believed that what they were saying was one of their biggest "ah ha" moments in their life and they were just trying to spare us all and help pave the long and at times, tumultuous path for us to follow. 

 I guess what I'm trying to say is I want to spend more time living, like, really living and less time worrying about aging because as I've come to realize, its inevitable. As my dad always said, 'we are all dying a little more every single day." Depressing, yes, but true nonetheless. We wake up thinking we'll get to it later, all those things we want to do, and then we realize twenty-years has gone by and we are left wondering, "Man, where did the time go?"

My friends, lets all let go of the should of's, the could of's and the would of's of our past and just cut to living. Truly living. 

As I embrace the sagging, the crows feet and the crinkles in my butt, I'm stepping forward into my second half of my thirties with a new fierceness and commitment to living well. I'm committed to taking care of my body, my mind and my spirit, not for vanity, but because I realize I deserve to feel my best. I deserve to feel that freedom within that only comes with truly living a life on purpose. 

Will you join me? 

I'll leave you with a song that has been circulating in my head ever since I started writing this post, one my mom used to sing to me as a young child that would send me into fits of giggles but has recently taken on a whole new meaning...

"Dooooo yourrrr...boobs hang low, do the wobble to and fro, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow, can you throw them over shoulder like a continental solider, do your boobs, hang low?

Celebrate it. 

Broken-heart, closed heart, open heart, full heart

"She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.
She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings."

- Ariana Dancu

The title of this post actually came to me back in August of 2015 while I was on a cool, early morning run on the beach. True to form, out of seemingly nowhere, these four words echoed in my head and I couldn't shake them. I felt this overwhelming urge to stop and sit on one of the cold, sand-covered rocks and gaze out at the ocean when suddenly warm tears began to slide down my cold, wind-kissed cheeks, and these words came to me: broken-heart, closed-heart, open-heart, full-heart.

I sat there in a bit of confusion because I knew well enough that my heart was not full and it was barely even open. However, it no longer felt broken and I could feel the light slowly start to creep back in as I continued to process not only the events of the following two years but more importantly, what lead me down that path to begin with. So, to feel such a connection to these four words left me a little dumbfounded. 

However, there was an unexplainable deep knowing that this was something I was supposed to write about and when I got home I sat down at my computer and typed out the title thinking the words that needed to be shared would immediately follow. Nothing came and I grew more frustrated. Most of the time when this happens words to accompany the title follow shortly there after. But month after month nothing came. But something inside told me to be patient and nine months later they finally came and it all made sense.

The other day, as I was cleaning out my room, purging myself and my life of anything that I no longer felt belonged , I stumbled upon my wedding dress. Something I thought I had gotten rid of months ago. It was tucked under some clothes that were stuffed in a garment bag I kept under my bed. I pulled out the short dingy white Nicole Miller dress we purchased four years early at Nordstrom and stared at it, waiting for the inevitable sadness to come but the strangest thing happened. It didn't. I paused and scanned the room, feeling as if some kind of joke was being pulled on me. Where was that familiar heaviness? Where was the deep sadness? The tears?

A smile slowly cracked from my lips as I cocked my head to one side.

"Huh?" I said out loud to my four-legged companion who was curled up in a ball on the floor by my bedroom door. He looked back at me with his usual indifferent blank stare. "So this is it." I said. 

I pulled the dingy white dress off the hanger that accompanied it in the garment bag under my bed. "I wonder if it'll be different if I put the dress on?" I asked Oliver. He cracked a single eye open and gave me a look that said, "shh, can't you see I'm sleeping?" I smiled back at him with a look that said, "Yes, but I don't care."  I slide out of my tattered jean shorts and mint green 'The Moon Made Me Do It' crop tank top, throwing them in a pile on the floor. I stood there, naked, clutching on to my past with both my hands.

Nothing.

I unzipped the back of the dress and slowly, one foot at a time, stepped in. beginning to work the dress up to my hips. 

Still, nothing.

I gently worked the dress up and over my freshly tan hips, being extra careful as I pulled the dress over my rear. All those squats have added a little extra junk in my truck and with one gentle tug, I had the dress up and was sliding one arm at a time into the arm holes and carefully zipping up the back. 

 Nothing.

I hesitated as I lifted my gaze, waiting for my past to finally catch up and for the flood of tears to come rushing out.

Nothing. 

It was like staring at a long lost friend in the mirror. Someone who I thought I knew so well yet today, is only a distant memory. If I could only go back and tell her what I know now. If I could tell her how brave and courageous she really was. If I could tell her that she needn't do anything she truly didnt't want to do. That love, real love, didn't look or feel that way. I wonder if she would have ever gone through with it? I wonder if she would have ever said yes? 

A smile broke loose and spread across my face, as coincidently, the sounds of Sia's 'Wild One' echoed in the background and I stared my past down in the mirror. Laughter broke free, quietly at first until a thunderous fit of wild giggles erupted from deep within and suddenly I was dancing with my past, wildly across the living room floor as Oliver looked on in a mix of pure confusion and terror. 

So this is what it really means to be wild and free. And for the first time, the title of this post had words. After months of waiting, her transformation was clear:

Broken heart, closed heart, open heart, full heart. 

 

 

Why I share - a vlog

One of the things I've been feeling really called to do lately are videos blogs. As much as I love writing, there is something so beautiful about seeing someone speak. Their mannerisms, their quirks, the way they say um over and over and smack their lips together out of nervousness. Or wait, is that just me?

All jokes aside, this IS something I've been feeling like I want to do more of. Bear with me as I get more and more comfortable in front of the camera though. 

This one was a little off the cuff. I was literally in the middle of a workout when all of these thoughts started coming at me full speed and I knew it was time. 

So, for those of you that may not get it and for those of you that want to know more about why, here is why I share. 

And with seriously the most craziest amounts of love and gratitude, thank you for being a part of my journey and allowing me to be so fully transparent. My heart is full.

Your truly,


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