When “I” is replaced with “We” even “illness” becomes “wellness.”
(a source from the internet; accredited to a million different people)
“Check on your strong friends.” This meme has been circulating on social media. It struck a nerve with me because I have seen the strong ones suffer, and dare I say even been the strong friend hoping to be checked on. The strong ones who appear to always have it figured out tend to be overlooked. Their true selves are not seen behind the facade of togetherness. But then a famous designer and a witty travel journalist cut their lives short and we take note. Success and/or fame does not equate to mental wellness. Neither does a glowing online presence.
I would like to have a large scale conversation about mental illness. As a college writing instructor and health/wellness coach, I feel that we are really missing the boat on this one. There is writing on the wall. It’s time we read it.
I was struck this week by an article explaining mental illness as the ult...
Good vibes only. Attitude of gratitude. Is it really possible that by focusing on what we have we can completely block out the negative side of life? Is it realistic? Aren’t people who are always smiling a little creepy and not to be trusted?
I was coaching a class recently, and the workout was miserable. It was over 90 degrees without A/C, and there were burpees involved. As a coach, I didn’t have anything encouraging to say. It was going to be a grueling day.
“I will be right here with you the whole time.” I offered my love and support before starting the clock.
About halfway through the workout, I looked at one of our female athletes. Both of her sons are away at college. She has lost a significant amount of weight and developed an intense passion for heavy deadlifts since joining our community. She has taken charge of her health and is making the second 50 years of her life the best yet.
I went over to check in with her in the midst of the sweaty show of fitness.
Shelter in Place: To seek protection from an environmental hazard by sealing oneself in a safe and secure location instead of fleeing or evacuating. One must stay indoors and rely on stored supplies or, if materials must be imported from a contaminated environment, rely on filtration systems that remove toxins, viruses, bacteria, and other potentially dangerous materials until the hazard passes.
"Shelter in Place" is the command issued when we need to be protected from a contaminated environment. Basically, it’s bad out there so we need to stay in a safe location inside while toxins are removed.
For the past few weeks, I have been practicing this drill. Social media was introducing hazardous materials to my mind, so I did the only thing I knew to do.
I decided to hide and seek peace of mind.
I have been studying the idea of starting right where you are and learning to be present in the moment. We all like to talk the talk and want to be present, but it is actually really hard to do in this...
“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”
– Pema Chodron
My mother and I used to share the same devotional reading. We each had our own copy of “Streams in the Desert” by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Mom and I would exchange phone calls sharing our excitement each day. “Isn’t it amazing! Today’s passage was exactly what I needed.” We both found comfort and guidance in words. We found connection. There was always a stream of hope buried deep beneath the desert. Little did I know, Mom was instilling in me the desire to pay attention and the ability to heal my own wounds. She taught me to find what I needed.
In times of uncertainty or fear, it is those same wells I draw from to find peace. My text of choice has changed, but my process remains the same. Glennon Doyle Melton writes that reading is her inhale and writing is her exhale; I would argue the same is true for me. I find that “breathing in” words of wisdom in the morning sets the tone for a more relaxed and enjoyable day insi...
This past Sunday I felt more like a daughter than a mother. And when I looked at my husband, he didn’t look like a father; he looked like a son. We were two kids without a mother on Mother’s Day.
(Yep, I’m setting this one up to be a real comedy hour, I know. But I will get to the silver lining, I promise.)
So, on this day that has come to feel like “National You-Don’t-Have-a-Mom Awareness Day,” we opt to get outside. We hit the trails and stay away from social media at all costs. There is too much temptation for self-pity or bitterness. It’s not like we wish nobody had a mother. It is just better not to see it paraded around in filtered family portraits and montages.
This being my first year without Mom, even though mentally she had been gone for years, it was a soul crusher. I will admit, I ran crying from Trader Joe’s. I just wanted my groceries and every single display was for or about mothers. Use these strawberries to make summer parfaits FOR YOUR MOM. Show your love and appreciati...
This past week, I showed Greta Gerwig’s coming of age dramedy “Lady Bird” for my college film club. Faculty and students were able to discuss the impact of a female director and delve into the startling dialogue that still plays over in my mind. The movie captures perhaps the most authentic example of a mother/daughter relationship that I have ever seen on screen.
In one such perfect scene, Lady Bird and her mother are shopping for prom dresses. The following conversation happens through the door of a dressing room.
Lady Bird: “I just wish … I wish that you liked me.”
Mom: “Of course I love you.”
Lady Bird: “But do you like me?”
Mom: “I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.”
Lady Bird:“What if this is the best version?”
The tension, love, honesty and pain carried in these few sentences took my breath away. It was like every Brene Brown book I had ever read summed up in one brief moment at a thrift store.
I brought this conversation to my ten-year-old daughter. She d...
We compliment each other really well, but I have also threatened to take us to marital counseling. I am the jazz hands to her practicality. I am the feeler; she is the rational thinker. Rebecca is a doer and always knows how to fix everything.
That is, until my mom died.
She could not fix me by organizing meal deliveries or covering my classes. She could not draft an email or orchestrate a plan to put my broken pieces back together. In my mind, I just knew that if I ever fell apart, she would know a way to fix it. Instead, we were both at a loss. I unfairly expected her to be everything I needed, which left her unable to even be herself.
Her M.O. is to ball up her feelings and bury them down deep. My feelings are more like a snake in a can. You never know when they will pop out and scare the sh%& out of you. So, I grieved because she would never be able to understand me, and she buried more and more resentment because she didn’t know the r...
“I'm not a body with a soul, I'm a soul that has a visible part called the body.”
― Paulo Coelho, "Eleven Minutes"
I spend a large part of my life helping people strengthen and improve their physical bodies. As a CrossFit affiliate owner, we want to see all of our athletes maintain optimal levels of health. We don’t do it because we want them to look the best or have top scores on the leaderboard. We do it because life happens. Cancer, illness, death, or heartbreak show up on our doorstep, and we want everyone to be ready for battle. But the fight is not actually for our body; it is for something much greater and sacred.
As Coelho states, the body is secondary. The soul is the star of the show. We must care for our bodies in order to best protect our inner selves. There is no better way to see this relationship at work than when suddenly life happens and our bodies fail us in some way. In the moments when we choose to turn arrows into flowers, we transform our obstacles and physical limit...
“Don’t worry, Mom, my school has a great lockdown plan. We have practiced.”
I wish these conversations didn’t happen but they do.
My twelve-year-old son was telling me that there had been a threat reported at his school. As a teacher myself, I know that this occurrence is common place. Yet, that familiar feeling swirled in the pit of my stomach.
“I usually get the space behind the door to block me or the very back of the room.”
He is rehearsing how not to die. Perhaps this is the opposite of rehearsing how to live.
My son wants to hear validation. He wants to hear praise for a job well done. Maybe I can be the best at not dying on any given day. A plan gives him security.
This sensitive child who made me a mom also unleashed a tidal wave of horrors and anxieties that this world has to offer. How do I protect him from the seeming threat of danger at every turn? Statistics would show there are not countless disasters looming in our future, but yet it feels like truth. It feels so very real.
“What starves pain, what forces it to release its grip, is speech, the voice upon which rides the story, this is what happened; this is what I have refused to let claim me.”
― Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light
This week Central Piedmont Community College is hosting Sensoria: A Celebration of Literature and the Arts. Amy Bloom described it as “a joy, a beacon of light and a sea of reading and writing and thinking pleasure.” Every year I am honored to participate in this unique festival. It renews my soul and lifts my spirits.
Tracy K. Smith, the current U.S. Poet Laureate, will be joining us this year. Her memoir, Ordinary Light, served as a field guide to losing my mom. Whether Smith knows it or not, she sat with me and commiserated. We compared stories of grief and guilt.
Bryn Chancellor, author of SYCAMORE, will also visit our campus as part of Sensoria and the culmination of Levine Reads, our first campus-wide book club. This project has been a long-time dream of...