LIVING LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE


the other side

“The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.”  ― Oprah Winfrey

It’s been nearly two months since I started my cleanse. And, almost exactly one month since it ended. I have been living in this newly-designed life for a bit now and it is finally feeling like my new normal. Remarkably, so much has changed since before the cleanse when I set this unofficial line of demarcation. It turned out to be a truly distinct moment in time when life as I knew it became altered. Without question, I’ve shifted, as I have so many times before, moving along my own personal continuum to achieve some level of personal success and satisfaction. We all make the journey through life, seeking fulfillment and pleasure and, for some, it comes in big bursts and for others, like me, it sneaks up on your subtly without you really noticing it until, suddenly, it is there and you can’t avoid recognizing the alteration. If you’re like me, that feeling is like crack – you want more and more, constantly seeking out personal growth and enlightenment. And, the further along the continuum I travel, the deeper the chasm that exists between my life now and my life before.

Now, I’m living life on the other side. My life feels oddly new and different and yet I know I am just a more improved version of the same person I have always been. My cleanse – both the emotional and the physical – allowed me to distance myself from the elements in my life that were no longer working. Gone are the inconsequential relationships that sucked up my time but provided no meaning to my life. Thankfully, I am no longer a slave to Facebook, constantly seeking some type of validation or creating an artificial sense of belonging. In fact, I have had countless experiences over the past few months where people commented to me about the goings-on of acquaintances on Facebook and I have felt an incredible sense of satisfaction that I was no longer in the know. I am not privy to all the status updates and, while I miss seeing some of the photos and have definitely missed way too many birthdays, my peace of mind is far more important and I feel liberated from the monotony of scrolling through posts in order to reinforce to myself how much better everyone else’s life is than mine. The other day, I was texting with a girlfriend and commented that I am missing so much by not being on Facebook and she generously retorted by saying that I am missing nothing. Those who I need to be talking to, I am – case in point my friend with whom I was having a lovely text exchange. I can count on two (maybe even one) hand the number of people I regularly communicate with in contrast to the dozens and dozens I would banter endlessly with or force myself to create relationships with “offline” and I am certain my interactions have taken on a much higher quality now. That means everything to me.

The most important element of how I am living my life is how I look at myself, overall. I’ve recently had to confront my challenges with being happy and accepting contentment. Being an eternal seeker, I am endlessly looking at the ways in which I can better my life and, while I am not naturally a negative person, I do tend to focus, personally, on my weaknesses as a tool in which to measure my requirements for growth. Sure, I am hard on myself and tend to have perfectionist tendencies, but I wholeheartedly appreciate my process for raising my own performance standards. And, most significantly, I do not impose any of my standards on anyone else. This drive for improvement is absolutely an internal process. As a result of this, there is always a sense of incompleteness to my life. Just as I can reach above the bar, I raise it, quickly forcing a new goal and setting a new standard. I recognize that this limits my ability to bask in my success and appreciate my accomplishments so it is something I am working hard to improve upon – without, of course, forcing myself into yet another competition with myself to make advancements without acknowledging my progress.

Just this past week, I received some great news about some financial matters I was dealing with and the outcome was relieving a huge burden off my shoulders. Something that I had been struggling with for nearly two years was coming to a resolution and I was able to exhale a gigantic sigh of relief. The elation from the news – the exact solution I was hoping for – was short-lived. Within a few days, I felt a nagging sense of anxiety growing within me but I could not place the source. This has become uncharacteristic for me because, since the cleanse, I have been very in touch with my feelings and emotions and have not allowed myself to run away from my feelings. The removal of food as a distraction from my stress or anxiety has been enormously beneficial as I am constantly present and working through whatever is causing me difficulty. In fact, in complete contrast, lately I have had an unusual sense of calm about me and have made my peace with a lot of the aspects of my life about which I am typically uneasy. It took me by surprise to feel this sense of deflation and to experience this overwhelming stress. What quickly came to mind is that I was manufacturing my own duress. Like many times before in my life, I was a filling a void and keeping myself in what felt like a safe and familiar bunker. Something needed to replace the worry that had been ever-present in my life for the past several years. In contrast, peace and solitude are unfamiliar to me so it is not all that surprising that I would create something to help me comfortably stay in the familiar state of discomfort. When the reality sunk in about what was happening, I felt defeated. All the hard work I had put in – not just in the past few months – but in last decade, seemed worthless. My bad behaviors were rearing their ugly heads once more.

Alas, fret not. This story has a positive outcome. I took my struggle to the place where it belongs – therapy. I dissected the hell out of it and woke up to a new dawn. Simply being able to understand what was happening was a dramatic improvement (admitting you have a problem is the first step…). There was no running away or hiding out from what I was feeling or experiencing. Instead, I had confronted, head-on, my own foibles. I recognized, regrettably, how I had simply replaced one ailment for another and was now able to dig deeper.

Wearing our skills is the hardest part of personal development. We can intellectually absorb what needs to be done differently and study the new behaviors required to live more happily, authentically and successfully. However, when it comes time to demonstrate what we have learned, many, like me, struggle. It is like performing the dance for which you have learned all the different elements but have not put them all together at once. Within me, there is a deep belief in how I need to operate in order to achieve my own personal satisfaction. Plus, I have all the information and knowledge required to accomplish my tasks. I simply have never truly taken my desire, married it with my knowledge and put the pieces together to execute. And I kind of understand why – I have been afraid to fail. I have internalized some kind of idea or expectation that once I arrived at my destination, I would be good to go. I’d fire on all cylinders and there would be no looking back. But, as I have heard more clearly over the past few weeks, life is not about arriving at a destination, it is about the journey. There is no pass or fail – it is a series of trial and error and, hopefully, learning from errors to have fewer as time goes on. I get that. I can do that.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu

This is what my life looks on this side:

I am living a healthy lifestyle. My eating is not perfect but it is greatly improved from where it was and I feel really comfortable with my choices. I have a different relationship with food and I have a strong sense of willpower to make the right choices. I have not re-introduced sugar or caffeine into my life and wheat is pretty much on the outs as well. Dairy makes a rare appearance and only in the form of the occasional cheese in a salad or a sprinkle of parmesan on a recipe. Plus eggs. I love eggs. I hardboil them and pop those suckers into my mouth for a quick protein fix after the gym. They make me happy. I have learned to enjoy cooking and have found recipes that reinforce that I can eat delicious food while still avoiding those items that cause me difficulty. I survived Easter and the presence of two growing boys who have a nonstop parade of cookies and ice cream with grace and, remarkably, little difficulty. I open my freezer regularly and see those familiar demons – pints of Talenti gelato – and it causes me no dismay. I will eat dessert again, when I choose to. I get to decide when and what. It does not choose me.

Working out has become a regular way of life for me.  Most weeks I am at the gym 4-5 times, if not more. I simply love it. I have found some great new classes, including spinning, that keep me engaged and enthusiastic, and I also enjoy my hour on the elliptical many mornings during the week. It is my time for me and I treasure it. I have learned how to prioritize myself and ensure that I get what I need to feed my soul in the most important ways. And, of course, the results feel wonderful! While I have not lost as much weight as I had hoped to by this point, I am on a steady path of progress. There is no more doing battle with my closet. Everything fits and I get to choose, happily, what to wear each day. What used to be a shaming session in the morning is now a blissful romp through my wardrobe of old favorites. I am re-establishing my relationship with lots of clothes that were tucked in the back of my closet in order for me to avoid remembering how they “used to look.” I feel like a fit person and, even this morning, as I was pumping through my spin class, I kept checking myself out in the mirror, acknowledging that I still have a long way to go. What’s different is now I have a great sense of acceptance for who I am. The reflection that stares back at me is a beautiful one that I am proud to look at. I accept my mission and will do my best to achieve my goals but, even if I stop exactly where I am, as long as I live my life in such a way that makes me feel satisfied with my efforts, I believe I will be ok.

The past is behind me. This was the important lesson I learned in the last week. I have talked so much about wanting to reframe my picture and cut out the elements that no longer fit. I am finally ready to do this authentically and sincerely. I no longer want to look backwards. The past, for me, simply doesn’t resonate any longer. Sure, it informs who I am today but there is less and less to be learned from that and, more importantly, I need to spend my time focusing on who I want to become. I am taking stock in what I have created and there is great pride to be derived from architecting a life all on my own. The survivor moniker doesn’t fit me but I can’t avoid acknowledging that I have managed to get myself to a place – with an awesome amount of hard work – where I am really strong, really confident and really amazing. I am so proud of who I am today and, without question, I am living the life I am supposed to be living. Everything in my life is within my control. There is no longer anyone who can disrupt me in the way my family and others have done so in the past. So, I can leave all that behind me because it served its purpose and I have drawn the last vials of blood left in that body. Now, I am ready to move forward.

My relationships are wonderful. I have always sought to have a large group of friends to compensate for all that was lacking from my family. There has been an insatiable need within me that, no matter how many friends I had around me, was never satisfied. Of course, no one could fill that whole. I had to learn how to do it myself. Now, I am much more content with just a few close friends, a couple of acquaintances and my wee but mighty family. I really need nothing else. Those with whom I want to spend time, I do. I choose how and when I spend my time and I am extremely selective about those with whom I give a part of myself. Partly this is because I don’t have a lot of time or emotion to spare and also because I think it is a gift to give of one’s self. We should all be very discerning about who we let into our lives and how we share pieces of ourselves. I have the most amazing circle of trusted companions, led off by MVP, my best friend. Our relationship has flourished in this new era and I am grateful for all the time and effort he has put in to help chaperone me on this path. Without question, my family is my rock – my husband and kids continually giving me a sense of peace and provide a home base for me. They have shown me that family can be a wonderful thing and I work hard every day to be a better partner and be the best mother I can be to my children, allowing them to realize their potential and their dreams in a loving and nurturing environment.

I am happy. I don’t necessarily feel it every day and I get moody and frustrated but, at the end of it all, I am happy with where I am and what I have accomplished. I am putting out a better version of me into the world and that is undeniably the best feeling ever.

So, now I am signing off for a while. This blog has served me well for many years. It has helped me traverse the jungles of my mind and the valleys of darkness that have scared and challenged me. The purpose was originally to position myself professionally and, as the wind blew me off course, I found a whole new destination of finding myself personally. I am grateful to everyone who has read this and shared their feedback, rooted me on and offered such meaningful and valuable words of encouragement. It is time for a new chapter and I will certainly start anew with a new blog to reflect my life today rather than to focus on yesterday. I am happily walking through this door.

DAY SIXTEEN


take chances

I cannot believe how close to the end I am.  Just six more days and my new journey begins. Usually when I am doing an extreme program like this, by this point, I am counting down the minutes until the end. With this one, I am coasting to the finish line, not really looking forward to it being over. The restrictions offer me clear boundaries with far fewer decisions to make. The real challenge for me will come when the guardrails come down and I have to make difficult choices. I have gotten really comfortable with this lifestyle as it is and, while I’m cautiously optimistic that I have the strength and willpower to stay the course, I cannot say that I am not a bit nervous about life after the cleanse. But, it’s getting closer!

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, bananas and pineapple
  • 5 dates
  • 20 carrots
  • Lentil soup
  • Salmon with mustard, lemon, dill and basil
  • Quinoa
  • Steamed cauliflower
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

How I felt:

Last night, to combat my recent bout of sleeplessness, I took two ambien. Worked like a charm and I slept solidly until my son woke me at 6am. I’m continuing to feel great. My knee pain, which has been debilitating, has subsided a bit with the combination of some anti-inflammatory drugs and the ease on my joints that comes from not eating wheat.

Physical Activity:

I did a 5K on the elliptical in about 45 minutes. I am trying to mix it up a bit. I then did a 1000m row on the rowing machine. That was a nice change of pace and worked my shoulders and back in all kinds of wonderful ways. I also did some core work on the mats using a medicine ball. My abs are going to be screaming tomorrow!

I found this great quote today:

“Do not be afraid to color outside the lines. Take risks and do not be afraid to fail. Know that when the world knocks you down, the best revenge is to get up and continue forging ahead. Do not be afraid to be different or to stand up for what’s right. Never quiet your voice to make someone else feel comfortable. No one remembers the person that fits in. It’s the one who stands out that people will not be able to forget.”
― Nancy Arroyo Ruffin, Letters to My Daughter: A Collection of Short Stories and Poems about Love, Pride, and Identity

I love this quote for a lot of reasons. First, it made me think about how many years I desperately tried to blend into the wallpaper, never wanting anyone to see what made me different. Between looking different, having a different type of family and just feeling like an oddball, I wanted anything but to stand out. It also made me think about my children who as a teen and preteen are deep in the struggle of trying to find their own identities while still trying to fit in. For me, I have circled the sun enough times to be comfortable with who I am and I can confidently live out loud. For my kids, it pains me to see how much time and energy is put into wearing the right clothes, going to the right parties, thinking the right thoughts. Even though they are both fairly confident and independent minded, they get sucked up into the group think that is characteristic of middle school.

When I was in middle school, I didn’t have a fraction of the confidence that my children have and, as a result, I hid. Even as an adult, because of my lack of upbringing and lack of sophistication, I gingerly stepped through life, watching what others were doing around me to ensure that I was making the right moves. But, as is said, with age comes wisdom and now I can make my own choices and not care about how others view me. As long as my decisions do not hurt anyone else, I am free to live my life in any way that makes sense for me. And, I love that about myself. I am not afraid to color outside the lines, step out of the boundaries, be different, think different. I am quietly rebellious. I don’t want to look like everyone else and I definitely don’t want to think like everyone else because I believe that my quirkiness is what makes me special and interesting.

But how do you teach that to an 11 year-old or a 14 year-old who are in the throes of peer pressure? When my teenager shared with us his commitment to not smoke or do drugs, I beamed. And I prayed that he could maintain the ability to resist the unending temptation coming his way. My younger son, who regularly proclaims his disdain for the boys who all have to wear the same sneakers, will undoubtedly be dragging us to the store to buy the latest and greatest by the time he hits 7th grade. i’ve come to learn it’s the rite of passage.

I often think about how, after I am gone, people will eulogize me. What will they say to describe me? What will be the one characteristic that will universally recalled? About six years ago, I participated in a workshop where we had to choose two words to describe our personal brand. Back then, the best I could come up with was funny and smart. When I finished the workshop, the words I strived for were courageous and inspiring. It set me on a path of intention. I no longer needed to be seen as the funny girl or the smart one. I wanted my legacy to be someone who took risks and lived life bravely. Even though I struggle to accept it when people call me brave, I recognize that I have fulfilled my objective. I fearlessly navigate my life, knowing that the best rewards come from taking the greatest risks. Maybe it is easier for me because I never had the luxury of getting too comfortable (although we can even find comfort in constantly being uncomfortable) but I’ll give myself more credit. I really am not afraid to raise my hand and step forward and share my truth. I am usually the first to volunteer and the last to concur. I’ll share my secrets and be unforgiving in my relentless for my passions. I don’t need to follow the crowd for I am perfectly comfortable walking all alone. All of this makes me really happy. And really damn proud of myself.

When I look at my kids, I get pretty pumped up too. Sure, they are products of us and embody all the love and nurturing we offer them but they are fierce in their own right. I have never worried about my children being wallflowers. I have never feared that they would get lost in the pack. They have two very distinctive voices and, in the way that suits them, they make themselves heard. I look forward to seeing who they are and how they show up in their lives once they get past the horrible years of adolescence. I am inspired by them as I see them guiding me, never feeling hamstrung or fearful of pushing boundaries. Our job is to continue to teach them how to respectfully stand apart and be the amazing and unforgettable people they are.