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 THIRTEEN


value of a moment

When I began my cleanse and committed to blogging about it every day, I had no idea how difficult it would be to not seem redundant and mundane each day. Despite what seems like a roller coaster ride, my life has not changed all that dramatically in the past two weeks and my days are actually quite normal and kinda boring. Trying to connect dots and find meaningful ways to share my experience has been one of the more challenging aspects. I suspect, from the outside, reading each blog post may be just a recitation of what I ate, if I worked out and how much angst I could drive to the surface and neurotically analyze. I often wonder why we share these experiences the way we do and why others decide to voyeuristically join us for the ride. But, alas, we are all here so let’s see how today went….

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana
  • Salmon sashimi with sesame oil, ginger and lemongrass
  • Steamed cauliflower
  • Chicken with lemon, olive oil and shallots
  • Sauteed spinach
  • Steamed brussel sprouts
  • Quinoa
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

It feels like the world has opened up to me now that protein is a part of the plan. Lots of wonderful options and delicious flavors tantalizing my taste buds

How I felt:

I felt great today. I woke up before my alarm at 5:30 this morning and I suspect my sleep patterns have shifted. Definitely feeling the difference in my body. There is no debating it at this point.

Physical Activity:

No gym for me today because I had meetings starting at 7:30am.

Today presented some new challenges and, ultimately, some wonderful opportunities to try on my new skills. I had my first lunch in a restaurant today. Being committed to sticking with my plan, I looked online at menus to see which places might have options for me. I am not afraid to ask for special preparation of my meals when I go out but I knew today would present a variety of challenges. Fortunately, a local restaurant had a great option of salmon sashimi that turned out to be incredibly delicious and completely on the plan. I was very pleased with myself because I was laser focused on staying true to my cleanse and did not even think about wandering off course. There was bread on the table throughout the meal and, even though it looked delicious, it never tempted me.

The second challenge came late in the afternoon when I dropped by a friend’s for a happy hour jewelry party. I knew there would be lots of yummy treats along with wine. Having not had a drink in weeks, the wine was the riskiest threat for me. Yet, I went to the party and stood in the dining room as food was passed and everyone was drinking and eating. Again, not once did I even think about the food and I even got some of the other guests excited about doing the cleanse when I shared my experience and told them of my results. The energy that came from sharing my story was so intoxicating that even a bottle of wine could not have made me feel better.

One of the things that I have found noteworthy in the past few weeks is how I have used my blog and my own writing as a support mechanism. Not being on Facebook and feeling somewhat isolated because of the lack of the social interaction that Facebook fabricates for me, I decided to turn to myself as a friend. As I sometimes do, I sought out advice from myself by reading my old blogs and seeing what wisdom was transmitted. I’m fascinated when I read my old writings because it is a living documentary of my evolution. I can typically place myself back in the head space I was in at the time of the writing and sometimes I feel a little embarrassed at how foolish I sound or how trite some of my thought processes are. And, sometimes, I am amazed as the level of insight I possess and how powerfully my own words still resonate with me. I love to archive anything I can for later viewing. As a child, I kept journals. Sometimes they were sheets and sheets of loose leaf paper with my most personal thoughts – my crushes, my hopes and dreams, my disappointments. Sometimes they were cute spiral bound notebooks with pictures of kittens and puppy dogs and the pages were filled with fictional stories that depicted the life I wish I had. Year after year I would fill my notebooks and then go back and read to visit with myself from an earlier time. I found it comforting then and still do today. It’s like the scratch marks you put in the doorway as you measure your children’s height year after year. In order to truly appreciate their growth you need to look at how far they have come.

Today, I decided to find solace in another document I have archived. Last year my phone ran out of storage space and I went about the task of deleting apps and photos in order to make room for new content. In the process, I noticed that my text messages were taking up a huge chunk of inventory on my phone. Upon further investigation, I found that I had saved over 19,000 text messages that were exchanged between me and my best friend in the past 2 years. No, I am not a teenager and yes, my friend and I text A LOT. In June, I shared the story about my experience of trying to let go of the text messages in my blog. I knew that I could not just let them go for there had to be some reason why I had saved them for so long. My friend and I were going through a rough patch at the time so I was not able to see clearly enough what the texts represented and why I needed to preserve them. So, I found a compromise for myself and was able to download them into an app and save them into a PDF. An 1800-page PDF! Earlier this week I was thinking about the text messages and felt the need to glimpse back into those days to see if they would reveal anything to me. In the height of the emotional turmoil that resulted from the intensity of my detox, I was seeking out any messages that would help to shed light on my path. And, because my friend has been out of town and out of touch, I thought it might be a nice way to visit with him as I took a walk down memory lane.

On Monday I looked around my office for the thumb drive that stored the PDF. I couldn’t locate it. I thought, perhaps, that I did not actually store it on a thumb drive and, instead, kept it saved on my hard drive. Then I remembered that I had gotten a new desktop computer in my office and had erased the hard drive on my old computer and gave it to my husband. My heart sunk when it seemed apparent that my memories were lost. I thought to text my friend on his vacation and ask him if he had saved the thumb drive I gave him with the text messages (he is less nostalgic than me and generously humored me by taking a copy at my request) but then chose not to bother him with such a minor matter. I would wait for him to return and hope that he still had a copy of the file. This weighed heavy on my mind all week because I felt like I had lost an important piece of my history – a critical component of our story. Like the boxes that my husband and I each have of letter and mementos from our early days of dating and the crates that I have filled with pregnancy tests, ultrasound photos, baby clothes and special memories from each of my children’s early days, this PDF was a marker of the beginning of something important. As each day progressed without me finding the file, I felt heartbroken. It reminded of me of the time I flew to Florida when I was 8 years old and left my photo album on the airplane, never to be recovered. I lost memories that could never be replaced.

Then today, I was on a conference call and was digging through my laptop bag sitting next to me, in search of a pen. I felt something in one of the pockets and dug up a thumb drive tucked deep inside. My heart raced as I pulled it out and shoved the drive into the USB port on my laptop. I could no longer hear what anyone was saying on the phone because all I could hear was my heart beating in my chest as I pulled up the drive and looked to see the contents.

And there it was!

After dinner, when I had some quiet time, I opened up the PDF and decided to read through some of the exchanges. I have done this before and it makes me smile to see the silliness of our chatter. It comforts me to revisit so many important experiences that we shared via text message. As I shared last week in my blog, because of the geographic distance between us, our friendship is heavily centered around texts. It is how we do so much of our communication which is both good and sometimes really not so good. Today, I was warmed once again and found myself smiling as I read through them but I also had a different reaction. This time, I was reading the exchanges a little differently. I was trying to feel the tenor of my comments. Memories flashed through my head as I remembered experiences and had visions of where I was as I typed many of these messages. Even though the correspondence transpired over the past three years, many of the messages seemed like I was reading something from twenty years ago. Despite believing that I was in tune with myself, my dialogue clearly indicated how much I was hiding from the truth about myself. The clarity today was about how much I have changed – and how much the relationship with my friend has evolved. While fun and silly and absolutely adorable, our texts lacked dimension and depth. On the surface, there were revelatory conversations with me acknowledging issues that I struggle with (some that still ring true today like my challenge to ask others for help), yet I was dancing around the deeper matters that were the roots of my difficulties. And, as I was able to recall the experiences that were not captured in the texts but surrounded the discussions, I was able to make out the foundations of behaviors and expectations that were being established. When I fast forward the tape and look at how my friend and I communicate today and the depth and veracity of the conversations, I can really see the complexity and volume that the years have provided. And, I can also see how I got to where I am today as a result of some of the things I said and did all those years ago.

After a short while, I had to stop reading because I felt like I was watching an accident about to occur – like watching a movie and you know exactly when the villain is going to jump out and grab the victim. While I cherish those memories, I also am disturbed to see how much pain I was in and how destructive my behavior was, despite the subtlety of it. I can see, by reading my own words, the patterns of my own behavior that resulted in turmoil for me. Although, at the same time, I am buoyed by the fact that my relationship with my friend is so incredibly strong and powerful that it miraculously withstood my own annihilative tendencies. Back then, my demons were well masked, dressed beautifully, decorated with makeup and jewelry and hiding the sadness and pain that I was not prepared to reveal. I do believe that one of the remarkable aspects of my relationship with my friend is that he helped to create a safe space for me to let my darkness out. And, I know that some of our difficulties resulted from my inability to continue to camouflage my agony. So, once again, those messages take on a new meaning for me and my relentless memorialization proves immeasurably valuable.

I end this day feeling proud on so many levels. I look at my three-years-ago-self and know that I was just beginning to take the first steps on what has become a tiresome journey towards peace. Perhaps what has felt like disruptions during this cleanse process were actually the new realities settling in. I no longer hide from what is uncomfortable and, sometimes, my truth is a bitter pill to swallow. I think this intense self-reflection has actually resulted in a moment of getting adjusted to a new way of being that I hadn’t fully acknowledged. Whatever the case, I feel certain that I have come a long way and, while I clearly still am fighting old battles, I have a much deeper understanding of how to win this war. And that feels really good.