Treats and tricks.

In the midst of overhauling the studio, a whole bunch of my favorite things have gathered in one corner of the room. These things seem to tell a story about who I have been, and I find myself wondering, which ones will continue on to tell the story of who I’m yet to be?

corner-of-the-studio

This has been a challenging autumn (or year, or life…in fact; I don’t know if there’s a life that exists without a whole lotta challenge, now that I think of it) and I’ve been doing a bunch of healing and growing and wondering what is coming around the bend.  Every day is a new adventure, though I am often convinced that it’s definitely going to be the same as yesterday, or last week. As if it could ever be.  This has been a time of shedding skins and trying on new clothes.

Today I got the message from my essential, inner dancing girl self that she needed a play day. No fighting inner demons today…just a day to play.  So I danced around the studio; I smashed some stuff in my yard with a sledgehammer (that was on my bucket list; totally awesome), and I am now playing with rubber stamps.  Not sure what’s next.

I’ve been playing around with the idea that, for me, a treat can often just be the next best-feeling thing.  And sometimes the treat is in the looking forward to and the doing (as with watching a favorite show, eating a divine cookie, watching the sunset, or having tea with a friend) and sometimes the treat is maybe in the doing and mostly in the result (cleaning the bathroom, doing my bookkeeping, washing the dishes for what feels like the gazillionth time in a day, or taking out the trash).

Today a treat for me is looking forward to and getting to take photos of a beautiful, dear friend.  Another treat is looking forward to watching a new silly TV show I like called “No Tomorrow”.  Another treat is making a card for a friend and popping it in the mailbox.  And another treat might be getting out on my bicycle…if it feels good.

I like the idea that anything can be a treat on one day, and that it may not feel so treat-like on the next.  I do my best work and have my best feeling life when I trust the treats of today and move towards whichever one tastes the sweetest in this moment.  And in the moments when the world seems devoid of treats, when everything seems like a chore or drudge work, then it’s probably time for me to pause and reconnect with my essential self.

I have a few tricks I use to link back up with my inner dancing girl.  It might be time to ask myself, “what would feel downright naughty right now?” or maybe,”what is the thing that has been on my to-do list the longest that would make the most difference to complete or let go?” Or it might be time to take a look and see: “is there anything in my schedule coming up, today or any day in the future, that I really and truly do not want to do even though I said I would, or thought I could, or think I should?”

Sometimes when there is stuck energy about something in my life, even the treaty-est sweet treats don’t hold the juice and the joy that I am looking for, and ordinary non-treaty things just seem like the absolute pits.  In those times, we can check out and eat or drink or smoke or shop or whatever we do to keep our tough feelings away for awhile, or we can extend the utmost kindness to our wretched-feeling selves and get curious (and honestly, I usually end up doing a bit of both).

“What’s up, honey?”, we can ask ourselves,  “I hear you that it seems like nothing would feel good and there’s no way to make it better.  Can you say anything else about what you’re feeling right now?”.  And often this is the perfect time to call a friend, real (or imaginary if that’s what you’ve got), and find someone to hold our hand, to ask us loving questions and to listen while we unfurl whatever tornado is twisting up our insides.  And then go find ourselves a dang good treat.

aquinnah-sunset-dusk
Dusk at the cliffs in Aquinnah, late summer. Treat! Treat!

Thoughts on traveling

For my birthday at least 10 years ago, my parents gave me a book for my birthday called “Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World”, written by Rita Golden Gelman.  I had already done quite a bit of traveling on my own, and I was inspired by Rita’s stories of her adventures in other lands, connecting with people around the world.  A few years later she put together a book called “Female Nomad and Friends: Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World” and I was honored to have a story of mine with an accompanying recipe included in the book.  Just a few days ago, I received an email from a woman who had read my story was reaching out to see if I had any advice to give on traveling alone, and life and love in general.  When I sat down to write, the following is what came out:

Hawaii shoreline-0813

Learn how to trust your instincts.  Notice what you’re drawn to, moved to do, interested in.  Give up the notion that there’s anything you “should” see or do, and notice what feels good to your body, your heart, and spirit.  The universe will always be able to create an adventure or experience for you that will be more fabulous and perfectly designed for you—one that is even better that anything you can dream up yourself.  The way to get on the “train” bound towards this delicious, satisfying experience of life is by listening for and noticing what you feel excited about, drawn to, moved to do, see, explore…and also what you aren’t.  If you hear yourself using the word, “should” about any of your plans, it might be a good idea to check in with your body and your heart and see whether you’re pushing towards something that just isn’t right for you.

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” – Joseph Campbell

Do your best to give up all expectation of what your adventure should look like.  Spend a little time each morning connecting with your inner wisdom, your sacred heart, and then imagine the kind of day you’d like to have.  Imagine how you’d like to feel, what kind of interactions you’d like to have, and then give thanks for the day, this life, and anything else that you are grateful for.  This will help your energy to start flowing in a positive way, and get you on a good-feeling high vibration where you will be able to receive more of what you are asking for.

If at any point in your day you find yourself feeling unhappy or frustrated, or you find that you are drawing unwanted experiences to you, take a moment to pause and become still–you can do this in your mind if you aren’t able to stop moving your body (for instance if you’re on a bicycle tour, or swimming the English Channel).  Begin to listen to your thoughts and see what their “flavor” is.  Are they coming from a place of fear? (what if I miss my train? What if my stuff gets stolen? What if I run out of money or I can’t find a place to stay?)  And also check in with your body.  Are you tired?  Are you hungry or thirsty?  Are you feeling alone or lonely?  Is there some other need you have been ignoring because there is so much to see and do?

Acknowledge that things aren’t alway going to to look the way you think they should, remember back to the way you imagined feeling for the day, and ask the universe for another way to see or look at whatever situation you are in.  For example, if you don’t know where you are and you’re feeling upset about being lost, could this be an opportunity to ask for help, and get to speak or connect with a local?  If the museum the you had hoped to visit is already closed, maybe there’s a different adventure nearby that is waiting for you that afternoon.

Be open to surprises!  Take off your blinders and let your sight and awareness expand and notice what catches your attention.  Slow down.  If you ever find yourself feeling scared or unsure, and you aren’t in immediate danger from which you need to remove yourself, bring your attention to the present moment.  Notice what sensations you are feeling in your body.  Notice what is in your surroundings that you can be grateful for.  Ask for support and guidance from the universe and then take a little time, and make a little space for an answer to come.  Feel the sun or the wind (or the rain) on your face, wiggle your toes, and notice that in this moment, “I am ok”.  If you are in a physically uncomfortable situation (as opposed to just having fearful or uncomfortable thoughts), then of course take whatever action is available to change that.  Keep asking for support and trusting that you will get it.

cloud reflections in Florida-3017

We are part of a benevolent universe and I believe that everything that happens in our lives is happening FOR us; we are not victims of our circumstances, we are co-creators with the universe.  Whatever we are thinking about and putting our attention on, whether consciously or unconsciously, is affecting our vibration and therefor contributing to the creation of our experience.

If you ever have trouble releasing fear thoughts or other painful patterns or experiences, here are some of my favorite tools that I use to find freedom from fear or other kinds of pain.  These are techniques that I use for myself and with clients in my health and life coaching practice.  They are simple and straightforward, yet extremely effective and versatile.  I find them to be invaluable. I would recommend having at least one of these practices in your traveler’s “toolbox” to use to help with any negative feelings, fears or pain that might come up while traveling alone.  [Note: if you have experienced or are experiencing trauma or anxiety, please consider finding a practitioner to support you in doing this work especially in the beginning as it can bring up intense emotions]:

Now that we’ve covered what to do when you’re not having fun, here’s a reminder to enjoy yourself!  Let yourself live the good life.  Discover “il bel far niente”–the beauty of doing nothing.  Step outside your comfort zone when it feels good, and at the same time, respect your boundaries.  Don’t push yourself to do things that don’t feel right for you.  Make your adventure your own and try new things, but only the ones that draw you in.  Give yourself permission to go at whatever speed feels right to you.  And don’t be surprised if you don’t end up where you expected… I dare to say you may end up some place even more magnificent.

drifting on mass bay-0887
Drifting on Massachusetts Bay

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.’s mother, from his book, “P.S. I Love You”

(this quote has also been attributed to Mark Twain but it doesn’t appear anywhere in his writings, or anywhere else before 1990)

Where the magic happens.

Where the magic happens
What does this image bring up for you? Does it resonate? Do you believe this is true? What kind of magic and miracles are happening in your life as a result of stepping out of your comfort zone?
 
For me, lately stepping out of my comfort zone has been all about acknowledging that I need help, and that it often feels challenging for me to ask for it. So it has been about asking for help, whether from the universe or from someone specific, and then letting go of the outcome and truly trusting that I will be taken care of.
 
Just this morning I realized that there is an area of my life, having to do with my home and income, where I’m feeling stuck and a loss of power, and it’s because I’m scared, so I’m trying to control and manipulate and manage the situation. And instead of being transparent, authentic and open (TAO, from Martha Beck‘s tools) about it, I am being sneaky and avoiding and ignoring it. Because I’m SCARED. Not because there’s something wrong with me.
 
Sneakiness and avoidance are two fabulous tools I developed as a child when I was doing the best I could. Now that I have the more powerful tools of communication and curiosity and compassion and investigation and self-love, I probably don’t need those old buggers anymore. But they’re still around, and it’s a habit of mine to use them, and sometimes I don’t even realize I’m using them because sneaking and avoiding is like creeping around in the dark with a blanket over my head. No light, and not a lot of insight.
 
Cape Pogue hillside
This morning I sat on the hillside in the sunshine overlooking cape pogue and I asked myself, what are the (stressful) thoughts I’m having about this situation? It’s amazing to watch the way my mind now begins to do The Work of Byron Katie even before I finish writing a thought down…already I can see that the thoughts isn’t necessarily true (even though I’ve been relating to it like it is), and I can feel the way I get lighter when I see the possibility of letting it go.  I realize I can absolutely see how the opposite of the thought is just as true. There is so much freedom in this. I’m instantly released from some of the fear, and I can see that what is happening is exactly what is supposed to be happening. How do I know? Because that’s what’s happening. What a relief.
 
This blog post was inspired by the image at the tope (from Lisa Natoli’s 40 day A Course in Miracles program), illustrating that the magic happens outside of our comfort zone. The key, for me, about this idea is that it doesn’t mean I should go around doing everything that scares me or makes me uncomfortable. It’s about identifying the things that, once faced, will give me access to more freedom, power, joy, connection, full self-expression, etc. There are some things that feel scary because that is my body or spirit’s way of letting me know that they aren’t right for me, or it isn’t the right time. So I go slowly, with awareness, and I ask myself, “of these things that feel scary or uncomfortable to do, which would feel worse to do the opposite or to take no action?”  Or, “what is my body drawn to do, even though my mind is resistant?”
I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “do one thing every day that scares you”, and I would like to add, “…the result of which will allow more freedom, power, joy and self-expression in your life.”  If you’re not sure whether it will or not, ask your body.  Imagine the result of taking the action and see if it feels light and delicious, or heavy and yucky.  The path towards the experience of more freedom, power, joy and self-expression includes doing things that help to cultivate feeling that way; things that feel good to our bodies, even if they terrify our mind.  Before you leap into the terrifying unknown next time, take a look below you; do you see a pool of cool, clear deliciousness (or something else that feels inviting) or do you see a yucky swamp full of muck?  And if you can’t quite tell which is down there…would it feel good to take a bit more time to investigate?

i could eat a house. day #13.

My body is constantly surprising me.  When I really listen, it tells me that its needs are often different from what I expect them to be–they are different every day.  I am not like a car that just needs gas and oil and water and I will go along happily.  There is not a daily routine I have found that I can just follow and have my body respond positively.   When I look back, though, there is often reason, there is often rhyme.

I have noticed that when I am not hungry, but for some reason I feel expected to eat (so food doesn’t go to waste, or because I am at a restaurant, or I have just cooked myself a delicious meal, or this is the only time in my day I have scheduled a break to eat), I find myself eating faster just to get the eating over with.  I often don’t really even taste the food, and I certainly don’t enjoy it.

Sometimes in these cases I will even end up eating more than I would otherwise because I have no access to my “hunger-ometer”; it has been overridden, and therefore, the only direction that I have about when to stop eating is from my mind.  “Ok, Lily, that should be enough food.  You can stop eating now.”  And because I am already doing something that is overriding my body’s requested/expressed needs, I am feeling anxious.  And in the past, my go-to cure for anxiety has been… you guessed it, eating!

Eating because I am full also used to show up in scenarios like this one: I have eaten too much and feel stuffed and yucky and fat.  All of a sudden, as I am having this uncomfortable experience of being over-stuffed, I have the thought, “Oh, I’ll be ok, I still have a half a chocolate chip cookie in my bag if I need it.”  Need it for what?!  What kind of bizarre program am I running in which my remedy for feeling stuffed is to eat a half a chocolate chip cookie, in which my answer to feeling stuffed is to eat more food?!

I realize that what my mind probably means when it thinks, “I will be fine” is that it has somewhere to escape to.  It has some way to escape from feeling whatever uncomfortable thing it is experiencing that it doesn’t want to experience.

When Geneen Roth talks about why we eat compulsively, she suggests that it is because we either don’t want to feel what we are feeling, or don’t want to know something that we already know.  In that half a cookie I could count on a moment or two of numbing relief, allowing me to escape from the actual experience I was having in my body.  Eating it would allow me to check out of the present for a minute.  The problem with this strategy was that once I had finished the last crumb, there I was, still feeling fat, and even a little bit more stuffed than before.

What I have finally begun to be able to do, though, is to be willing, little by little, to allow myself to feel what I am feeling. I have begun to realize that even super-uncomfortable feelings are not an actual threat to my well-being.  While I used to perceive the act of feeling my feelings as a mysterious danger zone to be avoided at all costs, I now have practice in just being with them.  I often can let them pass through me, breathing, and find myself still intact, and often in awe, on the other side.

What I know to do in situations like last night is to breathe.  I know to sit or to write and to let myself sort out whatever craziness I have gotten worked up about.  I know that the best thing to do, when I feel like I could eat everything in the whole house, is to pause.  To take a minute or five or 30–however long it takes for me to slow my nervous system down, to get out of fight or flight mode, and to get clear about what I am actually experiencing.  I can now recognize this kind of ravenous hunger as emotionally based, because no matter how hungry my body ever gets physically, it never imagines needing to eat more than a few courses before it will be satisfied.

My my mind, or whatever is in charge when my body isn’t running the show, is the one who thinks, feels, that it could eat everything in the house, and more, and even then is worried that it would still feel that emptiness inside or that perceived lack of the ability to get its needs met.

When I am, “so hungry I could eat a horse”, I ask myself what I would actually like to eat (assuming I haven’t already served myself a hunk of horse) and I prepare myself a meal.  When I feel hungry enough to eat my whole house, and everything in it, I do my best to sit down and breathe.  I have a glass of water, I get out my journal, or just simply sit, and I ask myself what it is I really want.  What is my heart or my body really yearning for?  It is my guess that there aren’t, in fact, many human bodies who would think that they actually need a whole house full of food to satisfy their physical hunger.  It is only our emotional appetites that can feel that large.

Safety in small bowls. Day 12.

This evening’s conversation with my “inner eater” went differently than it had the night before:

Lily 1: “Are you hungry?”

Lily 2: “No, yes, I don’t know.  I just scarfed down a whole plate of dinner and I don’t feel satisfied.”

L1: “What would you like?”

L2: “Ice Cream”

L1: “Really? Is that what your belly wants? What your body wants?”

L2: “No, and it’s not even really what my mouth wants. It’s what my mind wants and I’m going to have it anyway.”

I serve myself a very small bowl of ice cream –  Neopolitan, heavy on the strawberry cause that’s what flavor there is the most of in the carton.  I take one bite.  It makes my tongue cold and it’s not really that good or satisfying.

I put the bowl down and do something else for a minute.  I can’t stop thinking about it, though, the sweet taste lingering on my tongue.  I consider dumping it down the drain and brushing my teeth.

I remember how good I had felt the other night when I left a large puddle of melting ice cream on my plate.  How satisfied I had felt.  How clearly the moment had arrived when, all of a sudden, my physical hunger was satisfied and I had no desire to eat anymore.  My experience tonight is different.  I am trying to fill some perceived need that both my body and mind know could never be satisfied with ice cream, even gallons and gallons of it.  And I don’t feel willing to take the time to slow down and listen to what it is that I really crave.

11/11

A conversation between me and myself at 8:30pm this evening.

“I’m hungry”

“Ok, what would you like to eat?”

“Baked squash with butter, and cottage cheese.”

“Hey look, there is still a little birthday cake left, and I’m sure there is ice cream too. Do you want some of that instead?”

“No thanks, I just want squash and cottage cheese.”

“What? Are you sure?  Are you Lily?  What did you do with Lily, the sugar addict I know?”

“I’m still Lily, I just don’t want any cake or ice cream right now. My belly wants squash. And cottage cheese.  And maybe a few cashews.  Why is that so weird?”

“Well… If you don’t know what I’m referring to, it’s not even worth getting into it with you.  Geez.  And you didn’t even think about eating the cake yesterday even though it was on the counter all day long!”

“Yeah, ok, maybe I’m a little different from before.  I’m not sure why.  I think it’s just because there isn’t anything that I am not allowing myself to have, so therefore I can just listen and feel for what I want, and not be distracted by the no-nos beckoning to me.  And I think I am just more committed to feeling good than I have been before.  Not to looking good, or acting good, but to actually feeling good.  And that means only putting things in my mouth that I want in my belly…or, you know what I mean.”

“That’s so cool.  I’m excited to hear more about how that works out for you.  Please keep sharing!”

“Thanks! I will.  It’s really exciting for me too.  I think it’s making a difference that I am owning it too, instead of denying that there’s an issue.  I’ve been noticing what a difference naming things has been making. It’s showing up everywhere in my life – as soon as I am honest about something and tell it like it really is in that moment, it is able to shift.  Sometimes even 180°.  Life is so cool.  And I’m really looking forward to enjoying my days without being run by my relationship with food and eating.  There are so many other interesting things to think about and explore.  Don’t get me wrong, thinking about and playing with food are still some of my absolute favorite things in the whole world, but they aren’t my only favorite things.  I like cookbooks too.  And gardens.  And recipes. And photos of my lunch.”

“Those things all have to do with food.”

“Hmm.  Well, I guess I do like food a lot.  And I like it even better now that I can distinguish it from other things.  Like, when I know that I am hungry for squash, not just for sleep or companionship.  It’s so fun to live life being clear; what amazing joy and freedom is available now that food is food, and love is love again.”

 

 

Day ten.

“Creamy Mug of Warming Deliciousness”

I know, I skipped a few days.  I wrote them in my journal, and rather than continuing to put off posting again until I have the energy and interest to type them up, I am going to skip to today’s entry, to real-time.

I have started going to bed or laying down whenever I find myself wondering if I am hungry or not.  Cuddled cozily under my down comforter, between my flannel sheets, I feel safe.  Any phantom hunger pangs brought on by anxiety or boredom or other emotional or mental disturbances seem to float away when I give myself permission to take complete and utter care of myself.  Then, from the depths of my downy nest, I can tune into my body and ask it what it wants.  “Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Would you really just love a nap and that is why you are reaching for the jar of nuts, or the leftover birthday cake?”

Post nap, I check in with my belly again and can very clearly feel that, yes, I am hungry!  It is such a victory to be able to sense and know for sure that I am hungry.  My body wants food.  After many years of using and confusing all sorts of other cues with physical hunger for food, I am beginning to recognize and distinguish this feeling again.  There is no doubt in my mind or in my grumbling tummy.  It’s time for lunch.  So that is what I shall give it!

——–

It’s the first day of my moon time today, the beginning of my womanly cycle and I find myself craving rest and comfort.  After lunch, I sit at the table and read one of my favorite cookbooks for a while, The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld, and then I acknowledge that really all I want to do is go back to bed.

There is nothing like sitting in the sun on a Saturday afternoon, sipping a cup of turmeric tea (my new favorite hot drink, aka, “Creamy Mug of Warming Deliciousness”), and then crawling into bed to take an afternoon nap.  Especially a second afternoon nap.

Day #2.

I tear open the small yellow package of danger and pour seven uneven, egg-shaped, multicolored morsels into my left hand.  Peanut M&Ms have been an obsession of mine since I was young. Even now, even when I know that the candy coating will cut my tongue, the non-organic peanuts carry pesticides and toxic mold, the chocolate keeps me from sleep in the wee morning hours, the sugar erupts tiny red craters on my cheeks, even still, they are like good, old friends.

They rattle into my hand, three brown, two orange, one green and one blue.  I toss the crumpled wrapper behind me into the trash.  It lands atop a banana peel, a couple of carrot tops, and some shards of glass from the mason jar that previously contained my healthy dinner option.  By now, the sweet little devilish egg-shaped candies are sticking slightly to my hand, leaving blue #27, and red #3 on my warm, moist palm.  They don’t melt as fast as chocolate chips do, when gathered on the palm on the way to my anxious mouth. In this way, M&Ms are better suited for the methodical hand-to-mouth habit that I find so often I turn to for comfort.  Sometimes I am not aware of what is happening, until I “come-to”, finally conscious of that familiar softness of finger tips meeting lips.

I noticed it tonight.  Even with olives, or maybe especially with olives, those juicy, drippy morsels that require an extra suck and smooch to keep fingers clean.  It’s funny to think of the comfort foods I created during childhood.  Black olives eaten out of the can, one after another, fingers in the can, fingers in the mouth.  Peanut m&ms.  Smartfood popcorn. “Healthy” jalapeno cheese puffs. Red Hot Blues tortilla chips with Temptee whipped cream cheese. The list goes on.

There are only six now.  The first chocolate covered peanut disappeared into my mouth earlier as I reached behind my seat to throw away the wrapper.  What IS it about the hand to the mouth action? What is it about the feel of finger tips to lips?  All focus on the task at hand (no pun intended).  The world slows down for a moment.  The fact that I don’t have a home of my own is now not a worry; my empty belly and a heart that yearns for connection are, in this short moment, forgotten.

The problem with this tactic is that the worries and emptiness are still there as soon as the ritual is through.  The hunger, physical and emotional, is not gone.  I have either stopped because the food is gone, or because I have noticed that my stomach is beginning to feel ill.  Or, more recently, I have begun to stop because, all of sudden, I wake up.  Something gets my attention and reminds me that I am already whole.  That the desperate hunger which I am feeling is often not, in fact, a function of an empty belly, nor of a current lack of ability to meet my needs.

It comes, instead, from programming.  From an old program I created as a child, back when I wasn’t always in charge of my situation.  When I didn’t have a say, or didn’t know I had a say about my circumstances, back when the only choice I thought was mine was whether to eat, or not to eat. And usually there wasn’t a question.

Food has been the substance I turn to for comfort since I was a baby.  Yes, I know, that is normal.  We all do that.  We feel sad, tired, etc. and mom gives us the boob or the bottle and everything is better.  But somewhere along the way, I think I missed an important transition.  I bypassed the fork in the road where I would (eventually) discover that I was now responsible for my well-being, and with that responsibility came the freedom to make choices about things in my life that I hadn’t felt free to make before.  Missing that rather important discovery, I continued as a young adult, a teenager, and then a 20-something, to believe that when I needed comfort, food was the best option, the one and only thing I could count on.

The m&ms are still sitting in my hand. I don’t particularly want to eat them any more, and now I am not sure what to do with them.  This is a common issue for me.  I have a strong dislike of wasting food, so I often find myself disposing of food into my mouth when no alternative storage options are presented.  I think in this particular instance, though, I will send the m&ms to join their wrapper in the trash. [I am reminded of one Christmas when my boyfriend and I had stopped eating sugar and he was about to throw away a plate of homemade cookies, all the way from his grandmother in Germany, and I stopped him, saying what a waste it was, and why didn’t he bring them into the folks at work. “Lily”, he said, “if you had a bag of cocaine and you had just quit your habit, would you bring it into your friends at work so it wouldn’t go to waste?” Good point.]

I used to be desperate enough that I might later decided that I “had to have those m&ms” and would find myself carefully picking them out of the trash.  I think I have made some progress, though. I am better at breathing these days, and I don’t think it will be a problem.  The glass shards would be a good deterrent — in case I am tempted.

Sometime in the last few years I realized that now, as an adult, I am in charge of my life.  That may seem like a rather obvious realization, and one that maybe could have come a bit before I turned 30, but I think that even though I knew I was responsible for my life, I hadn’t yet discovered the freedom that comes along with the perceived weight of that responsibility.

I love the notion of responsibility as access to change.  The idea that when I take responsibility for some part of my life, I am claiming my power and the ability to take action. Then, instead of responsibility acting as a vehicle for blame, unwillingly driven by me, the guilty victim, it is the cargo vessel for change.  When I take responsibility for my life, I now, all of a sudden, have a say in how it goes.  I make the shift from victimized driver to powerful captain.

When I slow down for long enough to remember that I am driving my own bus, I get present to the fact that I always have a choice about my next move.  I think I need to say that again: “I always have a choice about what I do next!”  When I remember that, I can allow myself to take the time to get present to what is really going on.  What am I really feeling?  What are my actual needs?  What is the most effective way to meet these needs?  What will be the effects down the road from whatever action I choose?

I am hungry.  My belly is growling.  I am tired.  A little thirsty, too.  I am about to arrive back home after traveling for a month.  I am not sure where I will be living for the winter, and I have chosen to stay with my parents tonight which means I will be entering the dynamics of the place where I grew up — the place where I spent so long using the now-dysfunctional program called, “food = comfort”.  I will be preparing and eating food in a strictly vegetarian kitchen, the diet my family has followed since I was young, so, while there, I won’t necessarily be able to keep the promise to myself to eat what my body wants.

And yet, even as these circumstances cause anxiety to rise in my body, I still have a choice.  As I start my car and drive off the ferry onto the island I call home, I am reminded of that choice by the faint rainbow of colors still painted on my palm.