Personal Growth

you are a voice.

A friend shared this with me this morning. You are a voice, not an echo. Use it, and have a great week y'all!


voice

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packing light: part II.

Most of us have heard of the geographic cure concept- the idea that changing location will magically cure our problems. It can be so appealing for so many reasons, and the reasons are not all bad- there is much to be said for having a fresh start and new surroundings.

My friend questioned me about this multiple times when I was making this move. “Is that any part of this move for you?” she would say.

All I knew was that I was certain I was running TO something rather than away. I had done the years of work, put in my time. It was time to lighten the load, which I had been doing incrementally for years, and take a step forward into the unknown and bright future that was calling me. I had cleared away the “wreckage of my past”, or at least made peace with much of it, and was ready to move on to what’s next. And sure, the thought of inspiring new surroundings was a big draw for me- I was hungry to experience more and have expanded influences that aligned with the person I was growing into.

One of my mentors, Dave, quotes Carol Dweck who says the future is “unknown and unknowable.” There are endless possibilities. Today, this thought fills me with hope and excitement about what lies ahead. When I was 22 and just out of college, it was completely crippling.

I’ve written previously about some of my “tricks” to packing light. As the years pass and the aging process marches on, the need for some things (such as the many self-help books I’d amassed) falls away. What I couldn’t grasp at 22 I now realize at 40 (hmmm, as of last week, 41...) and do not take for granted, all that life is with its magnificent gifts. With time passing, I don’t wrestle with the same thoughts that paralyzed me in my early 20’s. After graduating from the safe college cocoon I had mastered I was terrified, shielding my eyes from the big, bright, overwhelming sun of The Future. The world was my oyster...  and it was simply much too much to handle.

So I didn’t handle it. I stayed up until 4:00am watching movies and sleeping until noon. I had a box of index cards that I wrote movie reviews on for my own nerdy benefit, and I shed a lot of tears. Looking back, this was the best tool I had to process my emotions at the time. I was craving support and watching other people’s depiction of stories provided that. I made frequent pilgrimages to the movie store, my mecca, to rent VHS tapes that would offer me some insight and relief from the swirling, intense thoughts in my head.

I ate junk food and mostly avoided getting on the healthy diet wagon I was supposed to be eating for my chronic illness (I’m sorry, but who the hell wants “a nice lentil soup” for breakfast?!), pulsing with a strong undercurrent of rebellion. I laid on the floor of my Tucson house alone in what I remember to be the dramatic depths of despair and talked on the phone with my friend Corey (who was impressively "older and wiser") for hours, who had the difficult job of convincing me not to give up when I felt ready to. He was incredibly empathetic and patient with my episodes, and, thankfully, also talented at making me laugh in my sorry state.

One of my favorite quotes from Noah Baumbach’s movie Greenberg is “youth is wasted on the young.” And so it goes- I look around, all of a sudden somehow 40, no 41, wrinkly and bumpy, my fresh, easy beauty gone. My inner beauty, however, beams radiant and strong, freed of so many of the mental chains of the past that kept me stuck.

As we journey along on our paths, there are little lifelines and clues to cling to even as it seems we are stumbling around in the dark. When I was very ill and in the thick of my health struggles upon newly arriving in North Carolina, a yoga instructor told me that I had a very strong life force. This filled me with hope because I could feel that it was true. I always knew deep down that I had a lot to offer the world. My current coach would say that I just need to get out of my own way to unleash my potential, and I see now that’s what I was working to do all those years.
To get out of my own way. This gets to the emotional aspect of packing light. We will be continually faced with opportunities to challenge our old beliefs and let them go, to make room for the new, healthier present moments that await us.

Wherever you go, there you are.” This is what we encounter when we make a move, particularly geographic. We come with us, ALL of us, including our rich pasts, our unique way of viewing the world, our experiences that shape our perspective. Here's a recent personal example from this summer.

The internet had stopped working a while back for several months where I was living during a particularly busy work stint and I started staying at my partner’s place more as a result. He welcomed me with a gracious heart into his home which provided a quiet work environment, strong Wifi and espresso (three things that have come to be Very Important to me these days). I was humbled by the offer and went overboard doing my share and then some of the cleaning and procuring provisions because I wanted to “earn my keep.”

I made jokes about being Vagabond Val, traipsing in with my plethora of bags each time- laptop and work materials, food, drinks, ergonomic work desk, clothes, toiletries, and so on. We laughed about how ridiculous I looked, a colorful pack mule crossing the street, lugging in all my stuff up to his apartment.
I was the one making fun at my own expense, a classic deflection. The next time I had a call with my coach she could tell the housing stuff was really weighing on me, and before we could move on to higher level stuff we had to address it. Shelter is a basic necessity, a Maslow's bottom of the pyramid survival element. What came up for me was some very old feelings of worrying about being a burden to those I love, likely stemming from longtime childhood illness. Not only do I feel more comfortable as the giver than the receiver in general, but I was overcompensating and in fear about even the small possibility of being a burden to someone else.

What my coach helps me realize is that I am depriving others of the opportunity to support and be there for me if I buy into this line of thinking. It can be quite hard to see it from outside ourselves, but I know if the tables were turned I would want to be there for the ones I love, no question, and would feel badly if I couldn't be. She suggested I write a poem about it as I worked my way through my thoughts. It was a helpful assignment and the words flowed out of me within 15 minutes. Here it is:


He doesn’t care about the crumbs
but I do

I’ve turned into my mother it seems

That’s OK, I declare
We all have our quirks

Or warts as Mom would say
We go right on loving them anyway

Grace grace grace
Give us some grace
I give you grace but not me

Bar is set higher you see

Old voices sting

Ring in my ears whispering
You’re too much

But what are we if not safe havens for each other?
Aren’t we all a bit too much sometimes?

Breathe.
Breathe.
Feel your feet in your shoes.
Let it sink in.

You’re safe. You’re here.
You’re VALued and loved
You deserve to take up space

You’re among the trees now
The stars shine bright for you
Look up and see
Beautiful and free

New kitty reminds me I’m enough

I’ve earned her affections
Like I earn them all-
With love, generosity and a spirit of the other

A genuine desire to foster acceptance and grace

Where does that leave me?

I’m creating this story
From dusty old yarns

It isn’t true, never was
But it’s familiar, well worn
And stubbornly clings to neural pathways

Screw the eggshells
They’re to keep chicks safe not people

Lay your burdens down they say

Lay them down at your feet

Allow yourself to be held
Take a chance on this love

People love me anyway
They love me although
They love me because

Listen up girl its true
They love you for you
You’ve got nothing to prove

I’m actually doing pretty good considering, I say
And its true

I’m doing pretty darn good anyway

And that’s enough for today.


~ VAS 7.14.17



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Rainbow upon arriving in California last year after 4 days of driving across the country.
Pretty good sign!


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another trip around the sun.

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I take birthdays very seriously.

I’m feeling more reflective these days (well OK, let’s face it, that's not anything new… Winking). Birthdays tend to evoke this with the very public recognition of the aging process, time marching on. “Time flies whether we are having fun or not!” the saying goes. They can be markers that call us to reflect on the year past, the year ahead, the meaning of it all. So with that, I share a little pulse check.

What other day besides your birthday do you feel most like yourself? It is after all the day you were born! Something about the spirit of that makes me excited for my birthday, and thinking about the things that make up our essence and core as we traverse our respective journeys. What we radiate to the world.

I have been immersed in transition, relocating to a new home the past few weeks, and notice how moving never fails to illuminate things. Something about all of our stuff being shifted around physically that can trigger emotional seismic shifts. While being one of the top five most stressful experiences in life, moving can provide some real gifts once we get past the utter chaos.

With each move, distance is created between the last place, and with that comes the opportunity for fresh insights to bubble up.

My new place feels like my old place in Greensboro, NC, but different. There is an awareness of different levels of self. I wonder if that’s what the term “leveling up” means...

I can feel a little breakthrough happening in the air. It feels Sliding Doors-esque, thinking about the many different Choose Your Own Adventure decisions we activate in our lives. We make choice after choice, each one getting us to a different ending, or perhaps the same ending, with a different arrival.

Living your truth is strange. You don’t realize how long you’ve been buried. It happens slowly in stages, unfolding before us in such a way that we may not realize what is happening because we are too busy being wrapped up in the folds.

I’ve always lived my life in intense bursts with hibernation retreats in between due to various circumstances. I have a feeling I’m not at all alone in this- we do this in our own ways as we juggle all the things that happen in our busy lives. I’ve always loved life, but haven’t always
lived it, not fully at least.

My friend recently said that she is sorry that I’m not a cookie cutter person because it's hard. Well, she's not really sorry, but she's sorry for the struggle that comes with it. She's right - I’m not a cookie cutter person, “cut out” (ha, sorry) to live a cookie cutter life. Blazing new trails where there are no tracks to follow can be really lonely and confusing at times.

She said that I’m facing up to the reality of what I’m embarking on and doing and there would be something wrong if I DIDN’T feel somewhat insane right now! Feeling the feelings means I am facing it, which is important. It's also important to have grace with myself. I’m going through so much, and it's not a pretty time. Self care, self care, self care I chant.

The guiding principle of
being what you want to see in the world gives me some basic direction and focus. Even though the path is still being forged, I can look to my North stars and values that I want to embody and surround me as I walk. My doctor turned philosophy guru says: “Be it until you see it.”

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke


There are times in our lives when everyone else knows “it” but you. We always have the biggest blind spots when it comes to our own lives. I think of the old sticking our heads in the sand notion, trying to be inconspicuous. I always use the analogy of being a kid trying to sleep at our desks in class in school, head down and arms over our face. We can’t see, so we think we are hiding. For some reason we don’t realize that others can see us.
We see things as WE are, not as they are…

The hiding is dumb, to put it bluntly, and we are ultimately most definitely going to be found out. It is like me hiding around town and work wearing what is now famously called my Dumpy Khakis. I wasn’t fooling anyone! My inner peacock had given me away and I had no idea.

It’s cliche, but no one else can live our stories for us. We have to do it. Hiding will only get us so far. We will keep meeting our same selves in the mirror facing the same things until we shift, make a move, make a change, be brave and take a step to move ahead.

I’m currently living the life I was “supposed” to live at 20, at 40. It’s a bit surreal. I wore a bikini last week for the first time since age 25, and felt way more comfortable in it now than I did back then.

Yeah sure, the old crusty junk that haunts us is gonna creep up. Rilke speaks to me today with his wisdom:

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke


Just keep going, keep walking.

I have seriously kick ass community. Those who know me know I only swear when I’m extra passionate. Happy We root for each other. I love that the most. They remind me who I am when I forget. I made a quick list of the people I feel most like myself around- took 15 seconds and jotted down a couple names. I encourage you to do this. Cherish those people.

Most important, perhaps, is that
I got me. I have my own back. I can meet my own needs and take really good care of myself.

Say it with me: I am a person of this world. A proud inhabit of this beautiful planet. I deserve to take up space (thanks Cat).

You are beautiful just the way you are. Be You. Tousle your hair every once in a while. Embrace the messy. Hike barefoot like my cousin Sean. Feel the earth beneath your feet.

Here’s what I’m currently learning and working on:

  • Love is additive. There’s more room in our hearts for an abundance of love than we ever could imagine.

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  • We all come from such different backgrounds and life experiences. It can be hard to really try to put ourselves in others’ shoes- I know I struggle with it. Again, we see things as we are, not as they are… relationships of all shapes and sizes are a gift that is letting me practice this. Life is short- love each other! And let the little things that are not important go. With practice we start to see what the little things are. I’ve found I have more flexibility that I thought on this as I’ve matured. I used to want things a certain way. And while I still have some preferences, some more important than others, I have been surprised to see what I don’t need to hang on to. It has freed me up to be more open to receiving the gifts that do come my way.
   “We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Translations from the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

In terms of current priorities and goals, here’s what I’m focused on making happen:

  • Writing. I wrote 3,619 words participating in National Novel Writing Month in November. I definitely wasn’t going for a high count but rather consistency in showing up a few days a week in a room with other women and getting some words down on the page, and in that regard I was a success! We’re continuing the momentum through mid-December. I’ve been taking personal essay and memoir workshops in Berkeley this year at a fabulous place called Left Margin Lit (I am in their midst as I write this) and have dived into writing in a way that has been calling to me for a really long time. It feels good!
  • Hitting Fuzzy Yellow Balls. Tennis is another one of my hobbies that fell by the wayside. Whenever I pick up a racquet (which has sadly been only occasionally over the years) I think, I need to get back into this again, for real. I’ve been playing the past few months with some wonderful ladies, and just joined a friendly club in my new neighborhood that will guarantee I get in some more regular tennis action.
  • Creative Pursuits. Music, crafty things, design, color, style, photos, telling stories. I strive to fit these in more and make the time to create- it's good for the soul!
  • Inspiring Work and Building Community. I keep close to the flow on this and am learning to stick to the things that I am drawn to.
  • Exploration in whatever forms this takes. I live in the effing Bay Area! My new environment provides plenty to keep me busy in this department on a daily basis.
Until next year… I hope you make some magic happen on your birthday, and the 364 other Unbirthdays in between.

Enjoy one of my favorite
Birthday songs!

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Smurftastic birthday with the annual classic birthday candle!

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6th Birthday Happy

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When Grandma came to live with us in NC, Dec. 3rd, 2012

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packing light: part I.

My sweet cousin Nicole shared a book she loved with me recently as I was working on making the move out to California called Packing Light: Thoughts On Living Life With Less Baggage. It came to me at the perfect time, and I eagerly dug into the soulful thoughts the author Allison Vesterfelt shares with her readers. Truthfully, I carried this book around with me a bit like the tattered Velveteen Rabbit as I traversed the country that year, reading it on the plane and as my eyes grew heavy at night, folding over many of its pages, underlining and scribbling notes with vigorous head noddings and a-has. Her words were a source of comfort and strength as I figured out what the biggest transition of my life to date was going to look like, sans road map. If other people could do big scary things, I could too! I highly recommend it as a companion for anyone experiencing any kind of growth or life transformation.

Our brains are funny in times of transition. The closer we get to taking a leap or making a big change, the more fear creeps in and makes us want to cling to the walls, screaming with a megaphone in our ear all the reasons why we can’t do it. Fears also come up for the people who love us as change is in the air, and the overwhelm can get, well, overwhelming.

My ex-boyfriend Mike coined a phrase
Exhilafrightciting to explain the times in life such as these, and I find myself using it a lot lately. Exhilarating, frightening, exciting. It describes many of life’s moments: new love, new changes, new adventures, new anything.

Vesterfelt writes: “We get so focused on what we think is going to happen, so worried about it, we don’t even consider something better might be coming, something we couldn’t have possibly dreamed up ourselves.” That is one of the key lessons for me of this book- lightening our loads, emotionally and physically, leaves us more free to pursue what is truly important and open to receiving infinite possibilities that might come our way.

I’ve been working on ‘packing light’ for a long time. As my Dad likes to joke when he asks me what I’m doing, I usually answer “getting organized.” I spend a lot of my time getting ready to do something. This is somewhat due to my procrastinating, recovering-perfectionist nature to be sure. But also because, I’m Busy. Hopefully less of the culturally glorified Busy that is starting to be frowned upon instead of being worn as a badge of honor (which I am certainly guilty of), and more of the truly just-have-mucho-stuff going on. I like it, obviously, because I’ve lived this way as long as I can remember. If you asked my people to describe the definition of busy they would say that my photo is next to it in the dictionary. My Mom frequently says supportively: “We all know Val needs more hours in the day.”

In peak childhood days circa age six to ten I was churning out colorful loom potholders, coloring intricate designs on graphic outlines, and watching my favorite TV shows of the 80’s simultaneously, usually Saturday morning cartoons or sitcoms such as the Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Little House on the Prairie, and later the Love Boat and Three’s Company, the latter much to my mother’s chagrin. Come and knock on our door… I digress!

My varied ADHD-esque interests and curious nature left me with with lots of eclectic items in my possession. It began with collections: book series, special soaps in the shape of things like animals and golf balls, pencils with unique eraser toppers, paper napkins, stamps, baseball cards, paper and office supplies.

I can still smell the soaps and remember the feel of them and the oils on my hands. They were all beautiful and unique. A swan, a flower, a heart. I have moved several times over the years around the country, but due to my illness was unable to effectively purge things during most of those and my physical and emotional load grew increasingly heavier.

When I left Austin, Texas for North Carolina to seek answers for my health concerns, I took a babystep and let go of some of these special childhood treasures. I snapped a photo of my soap collection and said goodbye. It was not easy to part with. I came across the photo technique in one of the million of organizing books I had amassed and it felt like a decent solution.

As an archiver of life, letting go of special items with sentimental value feels damn near impossible. The professional organizer I hired many years later said that these types of possessions were the toughest to part with for most people, and her recommendation was to start with evaluating (and getting rid of) the easy stuff first. Some early quick “wins” give us a boost of confidence to keep moving forward.

I think about the irony that our possessions can so easily possess us. The stuff keeping us stuck. I used to love binge watching a show called Clean House, where the crew would intervene on a household struggling with too much stuff. The deeper reasons behind these situations was usually some kind of familial or career loss, illness, or other personal struggle.

I felt a lot of empathy for the participants, drawing strong parallels with my own story. It was powerful to see the end result (albeit at an orchestrated-for-TV mach speed pace), where the participants have lightened their loads considerably, faced some deep emotional demons head on, and are left with a peaceful home environment and a fresh start.

Vesterfelt’s book captures some of the heart of this process for me. “If we want to be truly alive, truly awake to the reality of the world around us, packing light will be a continued, daily struggle.”

As we embark on exhilafrightciting new adventures, I keep in mind what my doctor says: it's not “leap and the net will appear,” it’s leap and build the net on the way down. That’s what I take Packing Light’s message to be- when we follow what’s calling us on our journey, we are provided with the support we need in one way or another, even if it takes an unexpected or perhaps initially undesirable form. We are open to new opportunities. This echos Paulo Coelho’s concept behind
The Alchemist- all the universe conspiring to help us achieve our dreams once we follow our path or personal legend. Fodder for another post! 

I want to know - how are you practicing packing light in your lives?

Travel-Must-Haves-For-Amazing-Hair-

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sail away from the safe harbor...

I’m about to embark on a new life adventure and fulfill a longstanding dream deferred. In the early 2000s I went to San Francisco, CA for the first time with my soul friend Caitlin (this photo of me below was my first SF pre-cell phone camera selfie in the summer of 2000 Happy) I immediately fell head over heels in love with the city and returned several more times. I loved its breathtaking beauty, the hills, the trees, the water, the horizon, its diversity and culture, and most of all, its expansive healthy lifestyle and nourishment options on every corner. We were supposed to move there together in the great Unwreckable Journey of 2000 (made tee shirts and everything, complete with a fuzzy iron-on letter misspelling! Happy).

My twenties were a tumultuous roller coaster of severe chronic illness (Crohn’s) ups and downs, and while Caity made it out there, I never did. Life happens to all of us, and I believe it is the way we handle our circumstances that define us. Because I’m driven to continual learning and personal success, I admit a bit sheepishly my pride that despite my adversities I have been continuously employed since the age of 15, and graduated from college with honors after many hospitalizations and incompletes. More education may be in my future, but I am content with what I have already accomplished and embrace that I am enough, no matter how many twists and turns my journey has taken or how long it takes me to achieve my goals. We all have obstacles in our paths that challenge us and I am grateful for all of mine because they have chiseled me into who am today: a fighter, a survivor, and a person that I have grown to be very proud of. I haven’t always been able to give myself that grace.

And so, sixteen years later, I now have the opportunity to make this dream come true and move to the Bay Area in early October of this year and I could not be more excited. Many of you have heard about this over the past two years and supported me in a variety of ways as I have worked to forge a path for this to happen.

Today is my last official day at CCL. I will remain closely connected as a consultant and they will be one of my biggest clients. Little will change as I will stay on my two current primary projects, RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows and the Young Women’s Leadership programming and see those through. In addition I will be working to grow CCL’s social sector work and already have some promising leads. The good news is I will be back in North Carolina several times over the next year for a couple weeks at a time so will be able to stay connected to my community and family here.

It is the right time to take this leap and build my net on the way down. I have expanded my consulting business, vallmark* LLC (
www.vallmark.com) and am currently accepting new clients. My passions include helping build and deliver leadership programs for young people, empowering young women, coaching, writing, communications and speaking.

This shift will allow me the flexibility to be open to possibilities that present themselves as I find my niche out West. Yes, it has changed a lot in the 16 years that I've been longing to be in its midst, and the irony is not lost on me that I am a low-tech grassroots gal drawn to this current hub of innovation and massive growth. I am interested to find what is calling me there, whether its to be a grounding source for community work, a person/people, learning opportunities, all of the above... I remain open.

Over the past 9 years I have been so privileged to be surrounded by incredibly intelligent, caring, thoughtful and dedicated colleagues at CCL who continually inspire me, motivate me to dream bigger and bolder, and who have become trusted friends and advisors that I am beyond thankful for. I'm happy that won't change!

Meanwhile- little old Greensboro, NC over these almost 13! years since I was “banished” here from Austin, TX to get well- has grown into a place very near and dear to my heart. I now know I came here to meet some of my best lifelong friends who have been, quite literally, crucial to my survival and development into the most fully realized version of myself yet. I am getting verklempt... Really, just a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you for what you have given to enrich my life in all ways.

My sister and I have joked that over the years we have followed my parents around the country as they move- they keep running away and we keep following Happy. This is the first move I’ve made on my own and I know that in order to be the best family member I can be I have to follow my heart, even though it will feel hard and far away at times! I love them to pieces for loving and supporting me unconditionally.

Are things perfect? Of course not. Its true what they say about not waiting until everything is to do something. Do your research, prepare as best as you can, hedge your bets and jump in! Because #onelife, #yolo, and #betterlatethannever right?

How the West was won almost two centuries ago is a great narrative of facing and overcoming adversity on the quest for exploration and navigating unchartered territory.

It was during my Girl Scouts program almost 4 years ago where something clicked and I reached that state of flow and pure joy in my work. I realized that in order to be a role model, particularly for young women, it is of the utmost importance to live my fullest, most authentic life, no matter how scary that might feel to do, and to share my story and truth with others. I fight my humility by remembering I also owe it to all those who have not been as fortunate to see their dreams manifested. So with that, here I go…

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that 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’s mother

SF post

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blaze a trail.

I am part of a global women's coaching group and I went to look back today at the intention I set at the beginning of the year: "I will blaze a courageous trail through the forests of my life." I am thrilled and proud to say that I think I did that, in my own style, always learning along the way. AND I invented a hashtag that I need to remember to use Happy #‎growoutloud

My wish for you in the coming year- to continue on this beautiful and crazy journey with me, and live with a heart wide open! Much love, joy, and strength to you in 2016!

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wide-open-heart

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be proud now!

Thanks to Kara for sharing this one with me... progress not perfection! Happy Happy Sunday y'all! #growoutloud #championyourself


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Cred to the brilliant Karen Salmansohn

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heart wide open.

This is interesting to get my mind around, or at least try to articulate. After years of work and babysteps (my favorite thing ever), I’m getting very close to “returning to myself”. What does this mean?

For me, it means being able to be my authentic self in 99% of situations, including work, family, etc. I like myself and who I am, no apologies. I spent years running and hiding from the true me, even if subtly at times. Years tamping down my brilliance, sparkle, radiance, energy, light, boldness, vibrancy, joy, fun. Censoring what I really think, fighting against my core values, being with people who sapped my energy instead of lifting me up.
 
It has been a slow crawl of a process of releasing perfectionism, not waiting until things are perfect to show my face, learning how to show my face when it is imperfect, flawed, messy, loud, “too much” at times. I created a new hashtag recently that I love and have been weaving through my life: #growoutloud

The simple secret is that life is really really fucking short. Too short. Heartbreakingly short.
 
I want to dance! Laugh. Smile. Feel light. Be with the ones I love. Why do we let all these other “shoulds” and stressors cloud our way to joy? Life. It takes what it takes. Youth is wasted on the young, as
Greenberg says. Haha… bittersweetly true. As skin start to sag, wrinkle, get bumpy and sunspotty, inner radiance, wisdom, and beauty grows stronger, more stable and confident- so ironic. Happy
 
It has happened in the smallest of ways, unfolding a day, week, month, year, years at a time, peeling back the onion layers, slowly lightening the heavy load we choose to carry, think we are supposed to carry. After a few years of quiet, I can hear my heartbeat, and my song humming. The music has returned, my zeal and thirst for learning is piqued, and I’m hungry for the stuff of being present and available. I’m here, and it feels good.  
 
My friends can see it way better than I can. It is invaluable to have witnesses to go through life with, who can tell you how you are doing when you don’t know and can’t see… they have seen this growth and change and transformation and help me know I’m heading in the right direction. They don’t judge me for taking so long. I’ve learned to gently stand up for what I believe in, to be firm and still kind, to hold people and love them for exactly who they are at any given moment (always continually working on that one Happy).
 
I’m finally doing work I really care about and connect to deeply, and that is so important to me. Since doing it, all kinds of other good things have flowed from this.
 
People can see light in us that we often can’t see.
 
If I have 38 years of being half asleep, and 5 years of being awake, I’ll take that any day over 100 years half asleep. I’m really looking forward to what’s next for me.
 
Here is the deal- the world actually WANTS you to be your truest self! It seems incredible, I know. We are our own worst enemies.
 
It’s all love. Here and now, and forever more. Embrace who you are. Others are so eager to also. Let it happen and open your heart. Watch out- blazing suns ahead! Happy

 

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sisterly love ❤

It's been a while... lots has been happening, though not on here... Happy It will translate soon! Had a yard sale last week that was a big push to get several month's worth of purging round up out the door. Feels good in here now, echo-y even... and there is room for energy to move around. I am down to the last few piles of paper to sort through, and while the remainder are not perfectly organized and archived by any stretch, it is good enough that I will be able to move on from this massive project to other important things that have been waiting for me. Hurray! I have come across lots of amazing and special gems in this archeological dig of Val, and this is one of them found tonight, an essay written by my Sissy in high school... sniff sniff! Thank you Sissy, you are the best Sissy in the world and I love you!

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inspiring person of the week.

Greg Long is a big wave surfer and human role model. Not only is he very easy on the eyes Laugh, but his energy, heart, genuineness, and perspective are so appealing. So incredibly wise for 30 years old! I've been a fan of him since I started following surfing, and I love what he had to say in the August 2013 issue of Surfer magazine, when he shared in the aftermath of a three wave hold down ordeal that nearly killed him:

"My goal in life is to constantly keep improving in every aspect and facet, not just surfing. The amazing thing about this life is that there's an infinite number of possibilities that could direct you into a whole different place than you'd ever thought you would be. I never took for granted the amount of amazing people and experiences and opportunities that I had from surfing. But, what really matters is my family, my friends, and my health and well-being, as well as all of theirs. The ultimate goal is just to be happy and content. So if it carries forward in surfing, that's beautiful. If it happens in some other avenue in life for me, then I'm still gong to be happy and content."


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soul food.

I read this from some great gals I follow, and it immediately resonated and I had to make it into my very first meme Happy So it is with what I am doing here, trying to create my own little authentic space to exist and share what I know and love with the world, across a variety of categories. While all areas might not appeal, hopefully everyone finds a little something they didn't know they needed. Thanks for visiting and being a part of Why I Like Rainbows! Be True to Yourself.


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new things.

In order to get something different you have to do something different. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I have been in the learning curve space recently, and lots of new and challenging things have come into my path this past year. Getting out of our comfort zones is one of these cliche things we hear platitudes about and don't give a second thought. But actually BEING out of the comfort zone on a regular basis in several different areas of life- whew! The learning curve is something we talk about in my work with people on their leadership journeys, where we see our growth over time, then a plateau... we can either grow again and learn something new, which dips us down into a valley initially, but we end up higher than when we started, or stay where we are, comfortable and content. If we choose continual growth, the cycle repeats and we go through valleys, and then new, higher peaks with each new area we develop.

This is embodying a growth (versus fixed) mindset (Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization). Being in a growth/learning phase can be uncomfortable! Tonight for example, I went to an event alone. I just realized coming home that I went to an event alone and sober on New Year's Eve! And it was no big deal! There were plenty of people there that I knew so I wasn't the least bit worried. I got a migraine today and so drinking was out of the question. My favorite place in this area was having its last show ever tonight, and I knew it was the right place for me to be so I went. Didn't think anything of going alone, until several people mentioned it and questioned me on it (when asked why, they said, because they never go places alone). Sure, there were a few awkward moments and me just standing around, decidedly more sober than everyone else present. But I just did my thing anyway- why would I let a little social awkwardness get to me? Everyone is awkward in some way or another.

Towards the end of the night when I was getting my coat on to leave, I ended up in an unexpected and really nice conversation with someone that would not have happened had I not ridden through those awkward moments. I ended up rambling on to this person about all the growing pains I'm experiencing from the stretches in my life currently, and even talked about the learning curve effect, and how my confidence has been shaken a bit in certain areas. To steal a line from Meredith in a recent Grey's Anatomy episode, "Progress looks like a bunch of failures." Yes!

I talked to my party companion about how happy I am currently with my own company, and how I realized doing my biannual New Year's letter today all the growth that has been transpiring, and how when I let go of something that kept me squarely in the comfort zone (which can be so hard to get out of, because - its comfortable!) it opened up tremendous space for movement in my life that hasn't stopped coming!


I don't really know how to fake things, truthfully, particularly in conversation... but what you will get from me is genuineness. I don't know how to put on an act or play a game. I am just me at face value, and I "put things out there" as the saying goes. While it can feel unnerving sometimes for me, I'm thinking that maybe it is a good quality to have (we really suck at being insightful in any way towards ourselves). I've been saying a lot lately that the coach needs a coach! And tonight I was pleasantly surprised to have one. I brought up the saying that we are most like the 5 people we spend the most time with, so choose wisely... and we discussed trusting our instincts with people. I left with a smile on my face and inspired to write this post. Not bad for an evening out, alone Happy.


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This quote reminds me of something my friend Cat says that works for her- you want to find the sweet spot where you feel both Safe, and Brave. Don't you just love that? My word for 2014 was Change and my 2015 word is Courage. So I hope to introduce them both even more in the New Year!

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Mr. Roy Williams.

On this world HIV/AIDS awareness day, I recognize the most influential teacher and mentor I've ever had. Mr. Roy Williams was a beautiful soul, kind, loving, fun, thoughtful, encouraging, and supportive, among many outstanding qualities. These are my friends that I came to know well with him, and cherished our special time together in our youth, playing brain games, pushing each other, and relishing this safe space he created for us. I remember being so excited when we all worked together to surprise him on his birthday Happy He wrote me COLLEGE recommendation letters, even though our time officially ended in elementary school; we always stayed connected. He came to my piano recitals, games, and always wrote lovely notes in his memorable penmanship.

Losing him at such a young age spurred my activism and involvement in HIV/AIDS work, and in health care in general- I can only hope to bring a small piece of his beautiful legacy and compassion to my work. He has touched so many people's lives as he did mine. I'm forever grateful for the impact he has had on me and am thinking of him and his family today.
❤️  He is STILL inspiring me, just thinking of him today and seeing his writing, his powerful words which shaped me and gave me confidence I needed and still need- I'm inspired to go do and be more right this second. That is a powerful legacy.

Mr Williams

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vision boards.

I first learned about vision boards I think from Nadia, an employee at the cafe that I ran in Austin, TX, who was completely beautiful inside and out, and had a dry spell of no dating for quite some time. She made a vision board and I remember that when I went back to see her after I had left the cafe, she had found a love and was so happy... and she felt that the vision board helped manifest that in her life.

When I was going through a very challenging time in 2008 (major life challenges were converging at once: my Mom diagnosed with breast cancer, new job, break up with boyfriend, personal health challenges...) I went to a counselor because I was having "trouble with balance!", who encouraged me to do a vision board. I like to do things right when I do them Happy, so I made this kick ass board... and she was very impressed. Since then, it has hung in a couple different places in my home and not too long ago I moved it into my bedroom so I would see it more frequently than in the hall- it makes me happy.

It was time to make a new vision board for 2015, and as I got it started at our first girl's craft night a couple weeks ago, I wondered about this one and if any of it had even come true before I embarked on the next vision. My friend immediately said YES, things have definitely come true! I know I am not a good judge... that is why I have friends thankfully! It is like having a child and being around that child all the time, and not seeing the dramatic growth and change that takes place as well as someone who sees them only a couple times a year. I've gotten a bit desensitized to this thing and couldn't look at it clearly. It's exciting to look at it now and see that my health has drastically improved, my relationships are strong, my work is fulfilling and inspiring, there is joy in my life... it worked right before my eyes and I didn't even realize it!

I hope to finish the new vision board in the coming weeks, and as I look back fondly on this one again, really look at it (something I am working to be better at doing, absorbing the good), I see that Terri is right, and things really have come true. Happy

This exercise is a powerful tool for me, and I'm looking forward to manifesting even more on both in the New Year!


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the yesterdays.

Today I tell a true story, to a live audience, with no notes, for 12 minutes, around the theme of On The Edge, via the nonprofit storytelling organization The Monti. I have to tell you it has been a surprisingly cathartic experience! I had a good friend help me cut things out of my story, because it's way too hard to do yourself when it's your LIFE! She helped me realize I already knew the story, very well, and just needed to tell it the way I would tell it to anyone in conversation. The actual story and narrative do the work, not the words- pretty cool! It's a shift of mediums for me, as I'm more used to writing, and it's been a good challenge to step out of my comfort zone.

The gist and moral of the story, is that through a process of shedding yesterdays, I am slowly but surely more able to live in today. It is the story of overcoming 25 years of chronic illness that I write about here, and this site has helped prepare me to tell it.

The image below is a slate wallhanging that was in our house growing up in Upstate NY, and I've always loved it. It's now in my living room, and I just noticed it when practicing my story. It reminds me of home, because we had a big beautiful white birch tree in the front yard, and the cool, heavy shale is from that region. It's perfect ... read aloud, meditate on, and enjoy!


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A blurry shot of my sister Katie, cousin Julie, and I horsing around in the birch tree Happy
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don't give up!

I'm behind on posting- have several in the works and promise to post soon. In the meantime, just a little reminder Happy

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Renaissance-y.

I wrote these scraps of thought on the go, and as I'm coming back to it, I'm just leaving it as it came out- its simple enough to make sense (mostly I think? Winking).

I wanna be a success story- for others to look to. Here's why I'm pushing through fear, self-imposed boundaries, junk, and overcoming barriers and obstacles to expand my contribution. My favorite quote explains it all in a nutshell (fear of success):



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. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson

I had my fortune read for me recently, this summer. It was cool. Tarot cards. I got a hermit card for the one that was "behind" me. Since then I've found some connections to this hermit hiding idea. I have to be honest and say that I have been hiding somewhat, in my house, in my life. That is coming to an end, and it's a strange process. Its awkward and messy at times like learning anything is, but ultimately I'm doin' it... Happy To be vulnerable means to be able to be loved. Without even knowing it, I had built up little walls around things, keeping people and things out. Its insidious. Safe. They were stripped down, and had crept up again! Its been an intense few years, and its understandable that I went into turtle shell protect mode. But its time to peek my head out- the coast is clear.

What this "coming out" of hiding is allowing me to do, primarily, is be there for my core best friends/family. It's really touching for me to get my head out of my ass and see that there are people who actually need me! A huge gift that I did not realize because I was only thinking about things from my own, tunnel-vision perspective. Sad

So the way I see it I have two choices:

1) Old way- hiding (hermit). I drew this quote yesterday at a dinner party: "Nothing is more capable of troubling our reason, and consuming our health, than secret notions of jealousy in solitude." ~ Aphra Behn. I wasn't sure what it meant until my friend pointed out it was the hermit concept. Oh! Man.

2) New way- move forward. Be who I am. Be afraid and do it anyway. Do it BECAUSE I am afraid.

Once you know another way, its pretty much impossible to go back anyway. We still do it, but it really sucks and we feel guilty for doing it. Its worse than not knowing! Ugh. OK, for you non-conceptual thinkers, I know I am losing you. Happy But bear with me!

I have been calling this period my Renaissance. It has been the summer of love, the summer of freedom, summer of facing reality, summer of discovery, summer of the creative and the brave. I can hear the universe whispering to me, saying "it's your time now, child." "Go be your full, rainbow-ific self!" People are being put in my path that support me and my philosophy, and that want to help me. Looking forward to seeing what happens next!


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25 years of Crohn's.

25 years of Crohn's. Woah does that sound heavy looking at it in a sentence, in word form. So concrete and data parametered, defined. There's no hiding from numbers.

Thing is, numbers don't mean much to me, just swirl around in a survivor's haze, and I peek my head out now and then to come up for air. I feel young and "behind" and just waking up, which is why I always describe the experience as Rip VanWinkle-y. Nowadays I'm hitting my stride more and it's so exciting. For the first time, I am living my life from a stronger platform, getting to make informed choices and experience the present more fully. There are still plenty of challenges, of course. But I'll take these struggles any day over all the rest.

I think about what has kept me going, and even though at first glance my aesthetic may appear fluffy and over the top with all it's cheery rainbow goodness, it runs deep. The motto came to me at a time when I was having my first relapse of Crohn's and was out of high school for a month. I felt like I was dying, and I had to rely on the small things to keep me going. When I received a love note from someone that said "It takes both the sun and the rain to make a rainbow," it clicked. I didn't always like the fact that there were hard times, and I was 16- quite a dramatic and tumultuous time. The phrase has taken on deeper layers of understanding over the years for sure, and I can look back now at that streaky blur of an existence I had, clinging on for dear life while the wind blew me sideways, and see that rainbows
are roads between dreams- those rainbows during the dark times kept me hanging on and believing that there was a higher purpose. The roads have been long, 25 years long some of them, and I am weary sometimes. But I continue to trudge the road of happy destiny, because these roads are leading me to my dreams! It doesn't matter how long it takes. Being on the road is the journey that is important to where I will go and the dreams I have, I now realize. Those roads and walks are making me who I am: strong, funny, mentally tough, appreciative, grateful, tenacious, persistent, dedicated, sharp, competent, knowledgeable, my own Chief Medical Officer and health case worker/manager. I know stuff! People come to me for advice.

I remember visiting my cousin Guy in England and talking to him about his job- he is a private investigator for Scotland Yard, which is like the Brit's version of the FBI. I used to want to be in the FBI as a special agent (until my poor vision shattered those dreams!) and I was enthralled by his work, and wanted to know how I could sign up! He laughed and told me that I needed to put in my time as a beat cop for 20 years first. Wahhh Whannt Whaaaa.... that was a letdown! Happy But I think of it now seeing this magnet on my fridge below, and feel warm inside knowing that my connection with rainbows is something to the core and almost indescribable (yet I still try) - somehow I knew as a kid that they were placeholders, transporters to other dimensions and places (a la Rainbow Brite) and that I could rely on them to get me safely to the place I needed to be, when the time was right.

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Being a bone fide child of the 80's, I LOVED Rainbow Brite. I can vividly remember Starlite's (her horse) clomping as they trotted away on a rainbow bridge that they made appear with stardust to go help or save something. I always wanted to stand on a rainbow like they did, and still do Happy

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Paint a Rainbow In Your Heart
If this doesn't make you smile, or get stuck in your head the rest of the day... Happy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMLJ3JJOBFs

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thanksgiving.

We are all auditioning for various parts in each other's lives. Figuring out how we might best fit. Sometimes there is so much love there, and we just can't figure out how to make it fit (square peg in round hole). The beauty, I've finally realized, is in the noble trying. The fact that there is that much love there in the first place. I've been blessed beyond comprehension when I stop to think about it, how much love I've received in this life. Instead of focusing on how it hasn't worked, or why it didn't work, focusing on what that relationship gave me just fills me with gratitude. Things didn't work for a reason (sometimes more than one). It doesn't mean they didn't work, period. No, they had a purpose, and many of those loves are still in my life, still my dearest, most trusted and valued friends, because that is the purpose they arrived in my life for.

If only we could helicopter over our lives 10 years down the road and see the timeline, the path, as it should unfold, instead of stumbling blindly about every step of the way- we'd go, ohhhhhhhhh, I see! OK! I'm not gonna hold on to that so tightly! It had a beauty and a purpose even bigger than I could have imagined. Wow. But of course, the living part, not knowing where things may lead and trusting anyway, is what creates the depth of who we are. All of these relationships have made me better, and have slowly pushed me towards being the person I need to be. They have been a gift.

I talked to an old friend and his sweet family recently, an example of someone who tells it like it is and brings out the best in me every time we communicate. That is special and rare. We tell each other we love each other and it feels good and true. I know that I'm on the level with him, all the time, and he will go down in my all time inner circle club, always in my corner, fighting for me and cheering me on. He inspires me, and inspired this post.

Sometimes I feel like I'm going to burst with love thinking about all these special people that have graced my path. I was born with an extra dose of feeling genes and a heart on my sleeve, for sure. That too was for a reason, no doubt, which I'm working out now, day by day. I only see my story from these eyes, but these people I've loved have a story too, that I touched, and made an impact on as well. Maybe that is the reason I'm "special." Maybe I've given them wonderful things that they can't put into words. We don't think about things from other's perspectives- its too hard, its all speculation, etc etc. But why not? Why not assume the positive instead of the negative? If these people have had such impact on me, why not assume I have had the same for them? Just food for thought.

We could wait until someone dies to share how much we care about them. But why wait? Why not share what's on your bursting heart now? It feels really good. It's also contagious, and it grows on itself- giving is expansion, and when I give and share my good feelings, it makes me just want to do it more.

It feels like peace, and like I won't have the regret later that I wanted to but didn't. I'm committing right here to giving my all now, while I can. I've wasted enough time. I don't want to waste another minute. Will I be perfect? No. I'm gonna get out there and tell you I love you. Happy So look out!

Have I Told You Lately

Hammy (Brian) and I, Dec. 2002. Caption is from my movie "story" I did for a
support group (only copy of photo I could find at the moment). This guy has
been there through all my worst times for nearly 20 years, and
I'm very lucky to have him on my side now for all the good!

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This picture also shows, at my sickest point - even though I hadn't had sugar in a year,
my teeth were still rotting out and yellowed- major systems were shutting down.
I'm unbelievably thankful to be here, and Thanksgiving Day is a hallmark for me.

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je ne sais quoi

When the music changes, so does the dance. ~ African Proverb


Sometimes you just need a little spark. That something, from the world, others, to kick start the next phase of exploration. Things just click into place, after being just out of place for a long time. We all need a reason to get up in the morning. But who actually stops to think about this, or what it might be? I believe in the power of intention, and putting out to the universe what you are looking for at its simplest sense. It's visioning, and it works.

What this spark does is breathe new life back into dormant rooms of life, refreshingly fast sometimes. After a long hiatus from listening to music for example, I am all of sudden wanting to do nothing but listen to music. I have missed it and have been waiting to get here, but needed something to make that leap. These life affirming experiences renew your soul and its purpose here, and flow blood to all the places that needed to wake up and come alive again.

The same concept as writing here- I have been thinking about these things for a long time before they actually come into fruition. They usually need a little push, some change, energy shift to get translated. Can you relate? I know some of you have similar stories Happy


The view from my window this morning

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enfp

In Myers Briggs land, I am an ENFP. Formerly an ENFJ, with some J holdovers for sure, like list-making and calendars and scheduling. But I also do these things to calm and combat my naturally raging P. I find that most things I read on ENFP's are pretty right on, both in strengths and potential areas for growth.

If you haven't heard of this assessment, I would encourage you to check it out:
www.16personalities.com. It isn't for everyone, and not all find things that speak to them or that they strongly identify with. For me, probably because I score highly on most of the 4 measures (what the letters stand for), I find it to be a pretty accurate descriptor and a useful tool in better understanding myself, and improving my interactions with people. It's good to know what others are in your life too so you can see where you rub- awareness is the first step, and then learning to self-modulate and be adaptable to other's personality types is the goal for relational harmony. Understanding and valuing difference goes a long way towards this.

I've worked on this quite a bit over the last few years. I value knowledge and wisdom, so I enjoy learning and personal development. Working at an organization committed to helping people better understand themselves and their leadership potential, I am exposed to these assessment acronyms regularly, and they have rubbed off on me to say the least. There are plenty of other assessment tools besides this one, and they supplement each other nicely to give you a fuller picture.

Learning what gives and drains you of energy, your preferences in relating to the world, how you make decisions (heart or head, very crudely), and how you control and act gives you power to navigate life in a more intentional way.

This is a classic ENFP quote - I can relate! Happy
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one thing that scares you.

Do one thing each day that scares you. Please raise your hand if you are doing this. That is what I thought! (I didn't raise my hand either!) We get stuck in patterns, habits, ruts of daily living, "comfortable," and it can be hard to STOP, assess, and evaluate if where you are going is where you want to be going!

Note it doesn't say, what are you afraid of. We certainly think enough about our fears. It says DO something that scares you. This flies in the face of that fear we experience! Time to stop taking a backseat in your life!

Today's one thing I did that scared me? Wore white jeans to work! ;D
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getting quiet.

I get the feeling that life is keeping my world resoundingly quiet at the moment (and mostly throughout my time here in Greensboro) to allow me the opportunity to listen for what’s next. It can feel a bit lonely at times, but it is also the promise of a future that is wide open, and as bright as I desire it to be!

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compassion

I loved this recent article in the July/August issue of Ode Magazine:

The compassion instinct:
Research shows that a compassionate attitude towards others improves mental and physical health. ~ Larry Gallagher

Too bad you can't read it online Sad. Are they trying to thwart my paper hoarding tendencies?? Happy But here's a readable one with many of the same info and sources: Click here to read more

It's a really interesting idea, and I love the sounds of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley!
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the journey.

I am taking part in a program that greatly enriched myself last year, serving as a mentor for black and Latino youth. We chose images that represented where we were at the beginning of our journey, and one for where we are headed. I found this simple exercise to be very powerful and it evoked strong emotions in me, as the mentoring experience has overall, learning more about myself than I could have imagined.

I chose the image of the girl with the suitcase for where I was at the beginning of my journey. Curious, innocent, a deep thirst for travel and adventure, and ready to get on the road and see the world at a very young age. This describes me well-- when I was age 10 I went to England alone to visit family and felt ready to move out on my own after that, empowered and with a strong taste for independence.

The outstretched hands are where I’m going, even though I fight it sometimes with my own self- deprecation (fear of success thread)-- I am a reluctant role model, teacher, healer, even though something tells me that I’m already well down that path and there’s no turning back.

In my secret heart of hearts I want this. I want to be the life force that a few very special people were to me, who have inspired me and saved me beyond belief. I want to “give back” in this way.

At present, I walk the tracks between these two-- the girl with her suitcase, and the wise, soulful woman. I embrace this journey.

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resiliency.

I work at a neat non-profit where we dream up ways to help others be better leaders all day. Mostly it’s just a job just like any other, but sometimes it taps into what is at the core for all of us-- how to be a better version of ourselves. How to get to know ourselves. And better yet, how to be our most authentic, best selves.

This is the part where my ears perk up as I work to embrace my true nature, from a time in my youth when I was truly just Me, before disease, popularity, fitting in, conformity, non-acceptance, jealousy, depression, loneliness, bills, jobs. I was pure curiosity and sheer joy, inquisitive, investigative, fun-loving, entrepreneurial, and had a true zest for life and all it’s details. I Lived In The Moment.

At work we were talking about a health & wellness component to one of our programs, and someone suggested that it be worked as Resiliency instead. I loved the ring of that word. It was only Tuesday, but the week had already felt 3 years long, with work weighing me down, boyfriend, friends, health issues, all seeming to reach pivotal stress points simultaneously, and I was feeling left with very little left gas in the tank. I’ve cried enough to fill a river this week thus far. I’ve given 110%, and was in a position to realize (again) that in the end, it is every man and woman for themselves.

When a friend of mine told me this years ago when I was literally on my death bed from this disease and feeling full of despair, as cold and isolating as that thought sounds, it actually gave me some power and hope. She is a very wise woman, my friend Lauren, who has been through many battles herself at her young age. It gives me a strange feeling of comfort to mull this over. Mostly because it is in such stark contrast to my usual sociologist’s desire for an interconnected, interwoven, loving, full-of-people and support based life.

It takes me back to why resiliency has struck a chord, probably mostly because though I need others to make life bearable sometimes, I ultimately only
need myself to survive at the base level. I’m not saying thrive, no. But survive. And that is an empowering thought, knowing I can make choices and do what is best for me, regardless of how it effects anyone else, make my decisions based on what’s in my heart, and climb any mountain I choose and breathe in the air from the top. I don’t need anyone else to tell me that I am a beautiful, wise, funny, sensitive (in a good way), happy, thoughtful, kind, loving, incredible person.

I’m more comfortable looking to the external world than giving these things to myself, but I’m learning. I don’t need someone to tell me that I deserve the best, everything life has to offer and more-- after all, it is the pep talk I would give to someone else- it is just old habits and patterns that have my mind defaulting to reject this.

If I keep the mantra in mind of “what would I say to my best friend?” when talking to myself, it is overwhelmingly insightful and powerful. I’m working on closing the gap. And supporting myself and my hopes, dreams, goals, visions and aspirations, all the while remaining strong and resilient.

re·sil·ience noun \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\
Definition of RESILIENCE
1:
the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Lauren and I before my surgery, Dec. 2002
Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 8.39.27 PM 1665
43512853666 piccsy.com

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the transformation.

Ok, so I’ve told you a tiny bit about me and now I will share what I am up to. While this rainbow world is born out of wanting to document my struggles and triumphs over a twenty-plus year battle with Crohn’s disease, most of my time and thoughts are spent thinking about and doing other things, and I find it all sort of inexorably bound up together, such that I don’t know how I could have a single focus.

Rather, I see it more as a kind of lens which informs the rest of life I am involved in, and thus will share those other aspects here too-- and as the Brits say, you can like it or lump it, or as MJB
sayz, you can hate it or love it... what what!

The latest is trying to get my home organized. Oh boy.

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1st episode.

Good evening/morning. I don’t know where to begin, except to begin, again... even though I’m starting now, it’s again because lots has come before but for various reasons has not made it to publish land. I bought a website with my name on it years ago, then thought better of sharing my gory life story on it for the whole world to see, so then bought this domain to spill the beans on instead. The about page will have more insight into the choice for this site... while the primary goal for this friendly cyber world of mine (never ever in a million years thought I would ever say I would have a cyber world!) is to share my voice with you.

For some reason I equate futuristic tech stuff with coldness, and since I am far from cold always distanced myself from this kind of thing. I know my world, cyber or otherwise will be a break from the norm in this respect. Anyhoo, back to the primary reason for starting this -- surviving and thriving with a chronic illness.

One way I procrastinate from progressing on this project is to allow myself to be overcome with feeling cliché about this endeavor, i.e. everyone writes their sob stories and we are over-saturated with this kind of stuff, etc. etc. but by doing this, I effectively deny MY voice. And that, I am finally beginning to realize, has been a shame. Because I have a lot to share. Regardless of who is touched by it, and even if I’m the only one who reads it, on here or in print or some other form-- it will still be of great cathartic benefit to me.

So for that reason alone, I must press on. Even if it takes me a century. Which is something that I like to beat myself up about; not cool! Moving in the right direction feels a hell of a lot better than sitting still these days, and so I shall ride on the back of friend-propelled momentum, and see where this takes me!

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This is a warm fuzzy! You pull a string out of it and give to someone else, along with a hug Happy I believe in the power of hugs! The saying goes- we need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 for maintenance, and 12 for growth!
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one more time.

The title of a great Daft Punk song. Propelling me forward through the mountain uncertainty and fear that have built up over the last few months, years.

Food as comfort, as the great satiator (I made this word up), like I can do anything as long as my belly is full --- and fear for how to survive when it is not. Survival instinct really is all it is. Well, mostly what it is.

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coming around again.

The itsy bitsy spider... you’ll have to excuse me, most of the words that flow through my noggin are lyrics from a poignant song by Carly Simon, awash with feelings of familiar family nostalgia, heard so many times growing up, sung by a woman who’s voice and words always seem to ring true. I’m coming around again. Pain as a motivator. But only sort of. There are other motivators too, like the realization tonight that the reason this is the year (2nd year actually) of the nun is because I don’t need to be falling in love with anyone but myself. That is quite enough for one person to handle.

So, that is what I’m going to try to do. I’ve avoided it in one way or another for a very long time. But there is no going around it this time. It just makes me so darn sad, looking at pictures of a fragile yet unbelievably tough girl, feeling for a fleeting moment what others feel for her and see in her, and then quickly shutting that off, heaping up the compliments in the “compliment pile” for later reading, and most importantly, digesting. Why all the self-punishment? Is this the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Protestant guilt or some shit? It has gone on for long enough, that is for sure.

Yes, there is fear, and the fear of having to walk through that fear. And the fear of what is on the other side. But this is my journey after all, only mine, and only I can be the one to walk through it and see what it is all about. I owe it that much. So, here goes. I’m really glad you are here with me, holding my hand.

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